The tragic events on September 11, 2001, cost the lives of nearly 3,000 people at the World Trade Center, at the Pentagon and on four passenger planes.
We should be mindful to never forget these events. The lives lost, the shattered families and the ripple effect of pain and suffering felt by so many impacted by the day’s events and the recovery efforts.
But is it enough to simply remember 9/11 or “never forget”?
Maybe we need to keep doing more to not only keep their memories alive but also to honor their memories by working to create a better world with less pain and suffering.
Those who continue to serve our country do just that every day. Men and women in uniform devoted to ideals of freedom and equality for a better world. Some give their all for those ideals.
Since that tragic day, more than 7,000 service members have lost their lives in the Global War on Terrorism. More than twice the number of lives lost on that fateful day.
Men and women in uniform fighting for a better world.
Men and women committed to defending our freedoms.
Men and women that sacrificed everything for our Nation.
Men like 1Lt Joseph D. Helton, Jr. who was killed while on a mounted patrol near Baghdad, Iraq on September 8, 2009.
Women like Airman First Class Elizabeth Jacobson, who was killed by an improvised explosive device while in a convoy near Safwan, Iraq on September 28, 2005.
These heroes sacrificed everything in the fight to create a better world.
How then, can we also live in a way that never forgets 9/11 and honors the 10,000 that died that day and in combat since? How can we create a better world?
Maybe, this Suicide Prevention Week, we focus on creating a better world by saving lives.
Since 9/11 more than 100,000 veterans have died by suicide.
Seriously. Read that again.
100,000 veteran suicides.
More than 6,000 a year.
In some segments of the veteran population, 18 to 34-year-old males, for example, veteran suicide rates have increased by 102% since 2006.
That’s not okay.
It’s time to move from awareness, education and research to action. It’s time to get intentional about saving at-risk veterans.
That’s exactly what we do at Stop Soldier Suicide.
Day in, day out. One-on-one, individualized and holistic support for as long as needed. In many cases, that means more than 24 months.
You can help too.
Here’s what you can do:
1. If you’re worried about someone, talk to them. Today. Don’t wait. Don’t worry if you don’t have all the answers. Just listen.
2. Don’t be afraid to directly ask them about suicide. You won’t put the idea in their head, and if they are thinking about suicide, it will be a relief to have someone to talk with about it.
3. Offer to connect them to a professional. You don’t need to counsel them. Just connect them to someone who is trained to help.
4. If they are in crisis, call emergency services like 9-1-1 or the Veterans Crisis Line: 800-273-8255 or Text to 838255.
5. If they seem to want/need help but it’s not an immediate crisis, connect them to our team of social workers via our Get Help Form or (844) 889-5610.
6. Stay connected to them. This means more than social media and text messages. It means lean in. Make time. Face-to-face is ideal but a phone call may be all you can offer given distance. Regardless of how you connect, make time to build a tighter relationship and instill hope. Encourage them to seek help and stay involved in their own action plan.
Never forget. But let’s also work to build a brighter future by ending the veteran suicide epidemic. Together.
20-year Air Force Veteran and Stop Soldier Suicide CEO