CHARLOTTE, N.C., April 4, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- Today, The Independence Fund launched the first Operation RESILIENCY retreat in Charlotte, NC to combat Veteran suicide, hosting 98 former members of one of the hardest hit units from the War on Terror. The attendees were part of a 2009-10 deployment to southern Afghanistan with the U.S. Army's 82nd Airborne, Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment.
For the members of Bravo Company, the deployment created a life-long bond through adversity, but it also left many life-long scars for those who returned home. More than 60% of the 140 paratroopers assigned to the company received the Purple Heart for being wounded in action. Additionally, Bravo Company lost multiple troops during the deployment that were killed in the line of duty.
Since returning from this deployment, Bravo Company lost additional troops, but not to improvised explosive devices, or Taliban ambushes; they have been lost to the national tragedy of suicide. Each year more than 6,000 Veterans take their lives. Of those Veterans, more than 70% are not enrolled in U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care.
The staggering numbers showcase the need for a new approach. The VA has partnered with The Independence Fund to create these reunions as a way to engage with members of at-risk, high-casualty units, with peer-to-peer engagement and mental health preparedness as priorities.
"Too often, our Veterans return home and go their separate ways without seeing their brothers until the suicide of one of their former soldiers brings them back together," said Sarah Verardo, Chief Executive Officer at The Independence Fund. "Operation RESILIENCY was born through the passion and reignited energy shown by the members of Bravo Company at one of these funerals. We want to reignite the bond they created on the battlefield and do everything in our power to avoid these heart-breaking funeral reunions."
Over the next four days, these soldiers will attend mental health workshops, led by VA, teambuilding exercises and will conclude their journey with a resource fair and bonfire evening. The overall goal of the weekend is to provide the ultimate lifeline for all in attendance.
The Independence Fund is a 501c3, national Veterans Service Organization, serving the unmet needs of catastrophically wounded Veterans, Caregivers, and their families. Since 2007, they have delivered more than $60 million in direct support to wounded Veterans, their Caregivers, and families. Learn more at www.IndependenceFund.org.
Veterans who are in crisis or having thoughts of suicide, and those who know a Veteran in crisis, can call the Veterans Crisis Line for confidential crisis intervention and support 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Call 800-273-8255 and press 1; send a text message to 838255 or chat online at VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat.
Reporters covering this issue are strongly encouraged to visit www.reportingonsuicide.org for important guidance on how to communicate about suicide.
SOURCE The Independence Fund