Thank those of you who responded with encouraging remarks to my last as well as all of my previous articles. Even when we disagree on a point, I appreciate it when you take the time to share your thoughts. Communication of different points of view ultimately leads to a better end product.
Summer is winding down and soon our youth will be heading back to school, so slow down around those school zones. I just recently completed a cruise on something other that wasn’t haze grey! I got a chance to meet up with veterans from Florida, Texas, Georgia, California, Washington and Missouri. They were all actively involved in veteran groups and we had a very good discussion about service to others.
The Non Commissioned Officers Association (NCOA) has members of all ages and demographic groups. This month I want to focus on a topic that either has directly or indirectly impacted many of our members. September is National Suicide Prevention Month. Our Grand Knight wrote a very good article that can be located on the NCOA website under leadership messages. Please read it as there are a lot of startling facts and information that you should know in it. I only want to focus on a couple of factors that are often overlooked by our culture. The population percentage of those who have served or are currently serving in the military is approximately 6%. The suicide rate of that 6% is just about doubled that of the remaining 94% of our population.
22 veterans of all ages commit suicide every single day and the biggest reason it remains at such an alarming level is that it is a very difficult subject to think about. It is hard to understand and requires courage to confront. It is odd that there are traditions within our military about leaving no man behind and that is a phrase or tradition that should resonate with all of you. With the issue of suicide, there isn’t an enemy shooting at you, but there really is. The enemy is affecting a family member, friend, co-worker or someone that should be just as important to you as the person next to you on patrol in Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam or some other battlefield around the world. The enemy isn’t shooting AK-47 rounds. The enemy is the mind of the one contemplating suicide. The thoughts plaguing this veteran are invisible to you but cause behaviors that are visible to those around them if you know what to look for and truly believe in not leaving someone behind on the battlefield.
This month I am asking all of you who read this article to spend some time researching what to look for and encouraging your chapter or post to take some kind of action that will raise public awareness in your area. If you are a member at large, you can draft a letter to the editor for your local newspaper or get involved in a local suicide awareness walk. Do something! Last month the Air Force took a whole day off to focus on this issue. Let’s keep the momentum going. If we want the 94% of the population to care, we need to show them that our 6% cares first.
If you have any ideas or suggestions, either contact headquarters or contact me at email@example.com and I can assure you that your leadership will take note.
Strength in Unity & Leadership By Example,
MCPO (SCW) Terry M. Haines
Chairman, International Board of Directors