On Veterans Day and every day, we must confront an ugly fact: we lose more veterans to suicide than to combat. Suicides take an average of about 20 veterans every day. Many of these are women.
We are very good at preparing men and women for war. But we are very poor at welcoming them home and helping them to restart their lives after their service ends, thanking them along the way.
We need to especially help those who are at risk for taking their own lives by reaching out to them before their choices include anything close to suicide.
How can we best do that?
We can help by being aware of what's going on and supporting efforts to spread the word. For example, the Lake County Veterans and Family Services Foundation, Grayslake, recently completed a march to raise awareness about the veterans we lose every day.
We can help veterans by welcoming them home with jobs, counseling, homes and education. Jobs are critical to restarting a vet's life. As taxpayers, we can support efforts to strengthen the Veterans Administration, especially in its treatment and outreach programs
Some things are already in place to help. The foundation I work with hosts the Dryhootch Drop-in Center in Grayslake. It's staffed with vets "who have been there." Our mission is to listen, to provide information and hope, to guide veterans toward well-being and away from harming themselves.
As a Vietnam veteran, I can tell you that it's not easy coming home. My hope is that we can extend the spirit of our march beyond its one-day life, and beyond just Veterans Day.
We must do more than say, "Thank you for your service" one day a year. How about saying, "Would you like a job?"
Robert E. Gorman, Jr., Peer Support Specialist
Lake County Veterans and Family Services Foundation