RIVERDALE, Md., Dec. 7, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- The Troops First Foundation today urged the incoming Biden administration and members of Congress to promote a national suicide prevention effort specifically aimed at reaching veterans and service members who may be dangerously disconnected from others.
In an open letter, the Foundation said: "Leaders in the military community are deeply concerned that the grinding pandemic could exacerbate a troubling trend of suicides among active duty military personnel and veterans. As such, we write you today to urge your participation in and promotion of an ongoing national effort – "Warrior Call" – to increase connectivity among our military community and in turn save lives."
The letter was signed by Frank Larkin and Leroy Petry, the Warrior Call co-chairs. Larkin is a former Navy SEAL, 40th US Senate Sergeant at Arms and father of a Navy SEAL son who committed suicide. Petry is a 2011 recipient of the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest military honor.
The text of their open letter follows:
Dear Incoming Officials of the Biden Administration and Members of Congress:
The holiday season, coupled with the public health crisis posed by the coronavirus pandemic, creates a toxic brew of isolation for many Americans – your constituents. This is especially true for our bravest men and women who are wearing or have worn the uniform to protect and serve the United States.
Leaders in the military community are deeply concerned that the grinding pandemic could exacerbate a troubling trend of suicides among active duty military personnel and veterans. As such, we write you today to urge your participation in and promotion of an ongoing national effort – "Warrior Call" – to increase connectivity among our military community and in turn save lives."
The premise is simple.
We are asking active duty servicepeople and veterans to connect with former battle buddies and let them know they care. We want them to make a call and have an honest conversation and steer them to resources, if necessary.
The reason is all too clear. Far more emphasis must be placed on reaching those vets and service members who don't raise their hands, who are suffering in silence, whose physical or psychological injuries have left them perilously disconnected from others and who don't avail themselves of state or federal services.
Sen. Mark Warner, D-Virginia, puts his finger on the issue. "What we found is that two-thirds of these veterans who take their own lives have had no contact with the VA," he said.
As leaders of this country, you have a unique opportunity to promote the Warrior Call initiative and help get these disconnected heroes re-connected. The most recent data surrounding military suicide certainly underscores the need for connecting with veterans:
- The rate of suicide among veterans ticked upwards in recent years despite increased public attention and funding on the problem, according to a new report released by Department of Veterans Affairs .
- After adjusting for sex and age, veterans suicide was 27.5 per 100,000 individuals in 2018, up from 25.8 per 100,000 in 2016. By comparison, among all U.S. adults, the suicide rate per 100,000 was 18.3.
We recognize that phone calls are no panacea, but they are a starting point for connecting with people who might be spiraling into an abyss. The Troops First Foundation is seeking to have at least 50,000 current service members and vets pick up the phone, make a Warrior Call and connect with another by the end of the year.
To members of Congress, we ask for your help in specific ways, such as: sharing the Warrior Call pledge on your social media channels or in your constituent newsletters; addressing this issue in relevant committees and/or during floor time; encouraging your constituents to take the pledge and participate in Warrior Call; and/or reaching out to military facilities in your district or state to apprise them of Warrior Call.
To the new administration, in addition to sharing the Warrior Call pledge on your social media channels, we ask that you prioritize those Veterans Affairs programs that help reach these warriors who are disconnected. To both the new administration and Congress, we ask that you consider making Warrior Call a national day, recognized by Congress and commemorated across America as a key tool for suicide prevention among those who wear or who have worn the unform.
Saving our service members and veterans from suicide surely transcends politics and party affiliation. It is a tragic problem that should move us all to action, united as Americans.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Frank Larkin and Leroy Petry
Co-Chairs, Warrior Call
SOURCE Warrior Call