Twenty Veterans commit suicide every day: almost one per hour. That is too many. AMVETS has dedicated itself to shining a light on this issue from our local chapters to our national commander. Our local posts attend community days and car shows to pass out Suicide Prevention Crisis Line materials to Veterans; they volunteer at local police and fire departments as suicide counselors for local hotlines. Together, our members form a guerrilla group out to fight against and prevent veteran suicide through any and all means available.

The national chair of AMVETS Suicide Prevention Committee, Tom Donwen, says it best:

In October 2010, I became aware of a national tragedy:  the alarming number of Veterans dying by suicide, at the rate of 18 per day.  By 2011, the rate increased to 22 per day.

I was determined to create a positive response to this problem.  The program was titled, Operation Save Just One.

About 5,000 Veterans not receiving help from VA died by suicide. I saw an immediate need to notify the 5,000 that help was available.

In partnership with the VA’s suicide prevention coordinators and AMVETS Department of California’s 9,000 members, we conducted several outreach events contacting Veterans about help that is available to them.

The first year, I was dismayed at the number of Veterans contacted that had no idea any help was available. Early in 2012, I was notified of a young Marine that was saved through our efforts.

From 2012 to 2016, with continued assistance from the VA and its facilities, Operation Save Just One has moved to national prominence. Currently California has 33 “saves”; several other states have reported saves as well.

Our job is to notify our Veterans and make them aware that help is available to them just by calling the Crisis Line phone number:  1-888-273 8255 (Press 1).”

So often, we learn that a Veteran struggles to reach out for help, that he or she had no one to talk to, no one to understand. At AMVETS, we want all service members to know that we are always here for them. We want to listen, we want to understand, and we want to support each and every one of our service members.

One of the pillars of this commitment is our Reintegration Platform. Based on three distinct programs, our Reintegration Platform aims to ease the transition from military to civilian life by supporting our service members through this difficult time:

  1. Our Healing Heroes program provides financial assistance to the families of wounded warriors as they recuperate. Healing Heroes’ grants help families pay for travel, lodging, child care, and other costs necessary to allow families to be at the bedsides of their wounded warriors — right where they belong. To date, we have provided over $1.3 million to service members and their families as they heal.
  2. Our AMVETS’ Call of Duty Endowment Career Centers provide free of charge career training and employment assistance for veterans, active duty service members, National Guard and Reserve, and their spouses. We aim to connect service members with the right resources and employment connections to make the successful transition from military to civilian life.
  3. Our AMVETS’ Warrior Transition Workshops are post-deployment training programs for Servicemembers and Veterans, with a focus on those struggling with combat stress (PTS) and readjustment issues resulting from one or more deployments. AMVETS’ Warrior Transition Workshops integrate a peer-to-peer approach to help Veterans learn how to re-establish connections with their friends, families, occupations and society as well as to reduce the impact of combat trauma. The workshops are offered at no charge to the veteran.

Click here to learn more about AMVETS’ Suicide Prevention programs.

AMVETS logoThis article was submitted by AMVETS, one of America’s leading vVterans’ service organizations with over 250,000 members. AMVETS (or American Veterans) has a proud history of assisting Veterans and sponsoring numerous programs that serve our country and its citizens. Membership in AMVETS is open to anyone who is currently serving, or who has honorably served, in the U.S. Armed Forces from World War II to the present, to include the National Guard and Reserves.

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Published on Oct. 6, 2016

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