Editorial: "Help for Heroes"

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Every day approximately 22 veterans in the United States kill themselves, according to a two-year study conducted by the Department of Veteran Affairs last year; a suicide rate that is three times the overall national rate.

This VA study indicated that more than two-thirds of the veterans who commit suicide are 50 years of age or older and those younger soldiers who have served in recent conflicts are 30 percent to 200 percent more likely to commit suicide than their ­non-veteran peers.

To bring it home, as a percentage of all suicides in Alabama, veteran suicides represented 25 to 27 percent of all Alabama suicides – ranking Alabama amongst the highest in the nation.

In this Memorial week where we honor those soldiers that have lost their lives in the line of duty, I thought it was important to shine a light on this troubling fact - soldiers are coming home after serving our country and taking take their own life.

The question is what are we going to do about it? The answer is we must attack this problem with the same vigor and resources that we put towards attacking and defeating our enemies.  With the recent spotlight on the VA debacle in Arizona we hope that at a minimum our military and government can provide more services in a timely and regular manner that include regular mental health care, veteran support programs, job placement program, continued study on the effects of war and a heightened level of accountability for all of those at the VA.

Those that risk their lives to protect ours deserve better so I ask each of you to reach out to your local and state representatives today and find out what he or she is doing to support our Alabama veterans.  Challenge them to make supporting our veterans a top priority in 2014 so not one more precious veteran's life is lost in vain.

Bottom line, we cannot give up on our soldiers; they didn't give up on us.

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