Letters to the Editor

We must stop our veterans from committing suicide

We have come a long way in the treatment of our veterans since the days of the Vietnam War. Those men and women who served during that conflict came home to a dark nation and poor treatment from some Americans. We’ve learned from our mistakes and I hope that we are offering better treatment to our nation’s bravest citizens.

The Department of Veteran Affairs estimates that 22 veterans a day take their lives. Other studies suggest that this number could be higher. Regardless, any stateside loss of life by our brave men and women who have served our country is unacceptable. We owe it to those who have served to try and figure out why so many of them are tragically ending their lives.

As the former head military attorney for Marine Corps Installations Command, my least favorite task was reviewing the NCIS death investigations for Marines that had committed suicide in the National Capitol Region. Unfortunately, this duty occurred too frequently. The military is an inherently dangerous profession; therefore, losing lives due to suicide frustrated me more than anything else during my service to our nation. Likewise, the toll that suicide is taking on our veterans — many of whom survived combat — is unacceptable. My growing frustration is the reason why I said “yes” when the Illinois Senate asked me to serve on the Illinois Veterans Suicide Task Force.

The Illinois Veterans Suicide Task Force will have a regional hearing at 10 a.m. May 16 on the campus of Southwestern Illinois College in room 1370 of the Liberal Arts Building. We are gathering information from the public about the causes of and potential solutions to the tragedy of veteran suicide. Citizens will be given the opportunity to speak.

Veteran suicide is a tremendously vexing problem and we will not make progress addressing it without the input of all area veterans, families of veterans, and mental health professionals, who may have ideas about its causes and treatment. If you have thoughts on this urgent issue, I respectfully ask that you attend the hearing on May 16 and provide input to the Task Force.