As our community closes in on Memorial Day, it would be good to take a moment to reflect on those Killed After Action. Those would be the estimated 22 veterans a day who take their own lives.
State representatives have been traveling Illinois and talking to former service members about the suicide problem. Local vets talked about the loss of the fraternity they enjoyed in the military and alienation from the civilian world.
Vietnam vet Lloyd Evans and other vets said the Department of Veterans Affairs pushes pills to solve mental problems. They said the counselors are too young to understand.
“The only thing they’ve experienced is video games and school,” Vietnam vet Mick Eddington said. “It’d help to have people who’ve lived a little bit.”
U.S. Army vet William Hampton, 37, rediscovered what he lost after Iraq and Afghanistan when he joined a motorcycle club made up of combat vets.
“The family, the brotherhood, the camaraderie, something that you don’t get once you get out of the military,” he said.
Our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents figured out that solution. The Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Grand Army of the Republic, the American Legion and their halls all became refuges where they could talk with others who understood. Unfortunately, those institutions were not adopted by younger wounded warriors.
The state lawmakers have a role, but federal lawmakers have the real responsibility for getting the VA fixed. Civilians have a responsibility to volunteer and support veteran charities such as the Wounded Warrior Project and This Able Veteran.
But vets, you, too, have a responsibility. That same desire to fight for the person at your side must keep you from giving up.
Your buddies don’t need another reason to despair.