If $200 Billion Won’t Fix It… What Will?
More veterans have lost their lives due to suicide than on the battlefield…
Let those words sink in for a moment.
When I think of some of the greatest tragedies of mankind, that has to be near the top. I do not say that to diminish any other great loss of life, but this is ongoing – by last count, 22 or more per day.
Congress and the VA have thrown a lot of money at this problem. According to Congress, they have spent over $200 billion on mental health but it hasn’t slowed the rate of veteran suicide at all. Congressman Takano, who is the chairman of the House Committee on Veterans affairs, wrote that, “we’ve failed to adequately address” this veteran crisis.
If $200 billion won’t solve the problem, it must be a problem that is bigger than money.
As the founder of the nonprofit veteran shelter, counseling center and vocational training facility, called The Warriors Refuge, we fight this battle every day. We are on the frontlines with our veterans – face to face, arm in arm. We work with veterans in an intimate setting that allows them the opportunity to push the reset button on life. We show them their value by reminding them of who they are and giving them the skills and the resources to take the next steps in life and make it a success.
It is my firm belief that many of these men and women, who served our country so valiantly, and then struggle, need more than just an appointment at the VA, which could take months to get, and then some medication that the psychiatrist hopes will work. As a counselor, I know that medication can be necessary, in some cases. But it cannot be the only answer. We need to be better than that. Mental health must be personal, local and tailored to meet the needs of the veteran.
But there is another element that often seems to be missing, that I believe is absolutely essential – faith. In our experience, and it is consistent with studies on the topic, when someone is given counseling that includes hope of something greater than themselves, that the success rate multiplies. This has been our experience at the Warriors Refuge as well. We see veterans come in with nothing but the clothes on their backs, telling us that they have nothing to live for, leave six months later, with a whole new lease on life.
One of the key messages that we keep telling them is that – “Your life matters more than you can imagine. God has a mission for your life, and it is not complete. It is time to Charlie Mike – Continue Mission.”
When you see a veteran, let them know that you appreciate their service. If you see one that is struggling, buy them a cup of coffee and take the time to talk with them and hear their stories. Many have seen things that most of us cannot imagine. Some had to do things, to save many more lives, that haunt them every day. I share some of those stories in the book, Your Life Matters, but there are far more.
I also want to encourage you to support veteran organizations that are doing the work. There are a lot of organizations out there that make the claim – “veteran non-profit” but not all do the work that is most needed. Find the ones that get face to face – walking with them through their dark valley.
God bless you and God bless America!
Dr Cliff Robertson, Jr (AC2 (AW/SW) USS George Washington CVN-73 – Desert Storm Veteran)