Never leaving a fallen comrade behind
The words of the Warrior Ethos are: "I will always place the mission first. I will never quit. I will never accept defeat. I will never leave a fallen comrade behind." I am alive today because my helicopter crew lived by these words. For each of us who made it home from battle, the thought of leaving a fallen buddy behind is simply unacceptable. The job of those of us in leadership roles at Veterans Affairs is to live up to the sacrifice of our fallen comrades by taking care of our battle buddies who need care now that they are Veterans.
In the military, you are part of a close-knit family with constant support around you. You're with other Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Airmen, and Coasties, who share what you go through, day-in and day-out. These are your brothers and sisters.
But what happens when a Service Member returns home? That support system - the family that he had in the military and the chain of command from the squad leader to the company commander is no longer ever present. He is a citizen in his community trying to move forward with a "normal" civilian life. Our Veterans can often feel isolated--surrounded by those who have not served, not knowing where to turn, and think that no one understands them.
With Secretary Shinseki as our leader, VA is determined to become the Veteran's new support system so that they get the care they need now and throughout their lifetime. In this case, leading the way means making sure we don't leave our buddies behind.
When you lose an arm or leg during combat, nobody questions if you have been injured. As a Service Member, asking for help when you have a physical wound isn't always easy. But seeking help for a wound you can't see is even more difficult.
Our Warriors are taught to be physically strong and mentally tough. Often times they resist seeking help because they don't want to come forward with a "weakness." But our Veterans must know that an injury to their brain, although they can't see it, is still a combat wound - it's the same thing as if you lost your leg, or were burned, or were shot. It's a wound and they need to get help for it, because if they don't, it can lead to a number of other issues, and unfortunately in some cases, even suicide.
On average, 18 Veterans commit suicide each day. This is tragic and unacceptable, and we at VA will do everything we can to help our Veterans so that they don't feel suicide is their only option.
There's no clear-cut answer to preventing suicide, and we have a lot of work to do. But VA's mental health enhancements and suicide prevention programs are beginning to save lives and we will continue with our progress.
In order to make it easier for Veterans to seek help, we created a hotline, 1-800-273-8255 (TALK) and an on-line suicide prevention chat room, www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org, which enables Veterans, their families and friends to anonymously get the help they need. Both the hotline and the chat room are staffed 24/7 by licensed counselors. The lifeline has already saved over 3,200 lives since 2008, and many of those who log onto the chat room are doing so while still located in a combat zone.
Over recent years, VA has committed unparalleled resources to enhancing and improving our treatment of mental health conditions, and, more importantly, how we may take on a greater role in preventing and predicting them. We've expanded our capacity, especially in Community-Based Outpatient Clinics and subspecialty programs for PTSD, substance abuse, and returning Veterans; improved access by integrating mental health into primary care; and launched a nationwide advertising campaign, raising awareness of our 24/7 suicide prevention lifeline.
I believe that when Veterans return home, they need that sense of family and someone to provide them with clear direction. At VA, we will be their advocate, part of their new family, and provide them with the leadership they need to heal mentally and physically so they can live their lives to the fullest.
A Soldier never leaves a fallen comrade behind - and we at VA will continue our mission to never leave a Veteran behind.
Please email us to report offensive comments.
Posted by: gonville1 | April 18, 2010 2:30 PM
Posted by: pennydrdful | April 18, 2010 6:59 AM
Posted by: katem1 | April 15, 2010 10:12 AM
Posted by: michael_ah_oleary | April 15, 2010 10:01 AM
Posted by: therapy | April 15, 2010 9:45 AM
Posted by: isthisajoke | April 15, 2010 7:09 AM
Posted by: Itzajob | April 14, 2010 1:30 PM
The comments to this entry are closed.