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  • Thursday, November 10, 2022

    Not for the Faint of Heart

    Veterans Day Message from David R. Riley Sr., Department Commander

    David RileyVeterans Day is about honoring all of the men and women who served in the U.S. military.

    Many serve their communities as first responders, teachers, health care workers or church leaders. Some are business owners, farmers, company workers or retirees. But they are bound by one common commitment – to defend America with their life if called upon.

    Military service is not for the faint of heart. Most civilian jobs do not require risk to life or limb. Too often, however, the risk doesn’t end when servicemembers take off the uniform to become civilians again. Transitional challenges, the stress of military life and feelings of isolation all factor into a suicide rate among veterans that is more than 50 percent higher than that of nonveteran adults.

    The stigma of seeking help needs to end. Veterans value courage and it takes courage to ask for help. We must be pro-active. Ask and encourage veterans to seek help before they pass a point of no return. The bonds that we formed in the military are unlike any other. A good American Legion post fosters an environment that helps continue such bonds and create new ones.

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    (U.S. Army National Guard illustration by Spc. Rose Di Trolio)

    Very few of us are trained counselors or mental health professionals. But we are capable of listening, referring and following up. The national crisis line still works, but now there is an even shorter number. It is 9-8-8, extension 1 for veteran. Most kindergartners know what 9-1-1 is for. It’s up to us to ensure that 9-8-8 becomes just as widely known. By calling 9-8-8 now, we can prevent a 9-1-1 call later.

    The American Legion also has a Be the One website for suicide prevention. Learn from it. Spread the word about it.

    Homelessness is another tragic outcome that is too often connected to military service. It is estimated that America has 60,000 veterans who are homeless. Though veterans comprise approximately 7 percent of the U.S. population, they are 11 percent of our nation’s homeless.

    The best way to prevent a veteran from becoming homeless is to hire one. It’s not only good policy but it’s smart business for an employer who values skill, discipline and patriotism.

    When politicians lament the cost of a veterans program, it is up to us to remind them of the cost of being a veteran. Whether it’s exposure to burn pits or other toxin, many veterans today continue to pay a high price for their military service. We need to ensure access to high quality health care and benefits reflecting the thanks of a great nation.

    One hundred and four years ago, on November 11, 1918, the guns of the world fell silent. An armistice was signed and the Great War was over. Unfortunately, World War I was not the “war to end all wars,” as many had hoped.

    While we rejoice and honor the service of America’s veterans, we also remember the wise words of Gen. Douglas MacArthur.

    “The soldier above all other people prays for peace.”