Thursday, November 07, 2013
Vets Day Message: Losing More to Suicide Than Enemy Fire
MANHATTAN — New York State American Legion Commander Kenneth Governor zeroed in on the “suicide epidemic” in his Veterans Day message to employees of the VA Healthcare System’s 23rd Street campus Thursday morning, Nov. 7. Men and women in uniform (active duty, Guard and Reserve) are committing suicide at a rate of “more than one a day,” he said. “Simply put, we are losing more servicemembers by their own hands than we are by the enemy in Afghanistan.”
Only those who have experienced firsthand the horrors of combat can understand why so many resort to such drastic measures, he said.
“But those of us gathered here to observe Veterans Day know that we love them. We appreciate them. We are grateful for their service. We are their friends, their family, their co-workers and their neighbors. It is up to us to ensure that every veteran feels that his or her service to this country is appreciated by their fellow Americans. There are many tangible ways that we can acknowledge their sacrifice, but the easiest is to simply say, ‘Thank you for what you have done for our country’.”
And if a veteran is showing signs of unhappiness or depression, “encourage him to seek help through the VA immediately,” Governor urged.
He went on to point out that Veterans Day is a time to honor not just those who have fought in battle, but “all of the outstanding men and women who served in our nation’s Armed Forces since our founding more than 237 years ago.”
He noted: “Not all veterans have seen war, but a common bond that they share is an oath in which they expressed their willingness to die defending this nation. Perhaps most significant in preserving our way of life are the battles that America does not have to fight because those who wish us harm slink away in fear of the Coast Guard cutter, the Navy aircraft carrier, the Air Force fighter squadron or the Army soldier or Marine on patrol.”
Earlier this year, Governor said, America lost one of its bravest World War II veterans — Army Technical Sergeant Vernon McGarity, who had received the Medal of Honor for leading a small unit against the German offensive at the Battle of the Bulge, despite being seriously wounded.
After the war, McGarity served in the Tennessee National Guard for 28 years, and “also worked for over three decades for the Veterans Administration in Memphis, helping his fellow veterans secure the well-deserved benefits that they earned.”
The valor and dedication that defined warriors from previous generations continues today, he said. “And many of these veterans are women, such as Army Chief Warrant Officer Lori Hill. While piloting her helicopter over Iraq in 2006, she maneuvered her chopper to draw enemy gunfire away from another helicopter and provide suppressive fire for troops on the ground. Despite flying a damaged aircraft and suffering injuries, she landed the helicopter safely, saving her crew. For her actions, she became the first woman to receive the Distinguished Flying Cross.”
Governor added: “Women are major contributors to our military presence in Afghanistan and many have given their lives in the War on Terrorism.”
The American Legion, he noted, recently issued a report calling upon VA to improve its response to the unique needs of women veterans.
“America is home to more than 1.2 million women veterans and they deserve our support.”
He concluded: “Ladies and gentlemen, let us always treat our 22 million veterans as the saviors of our country that they are. Even when the guns are no longer shooting.”