Since April 5, three veterans have committed suicide on the grounds of a Veterans Affairs medical facility. The first two were in Georgia, one at a parking garage at the Carl Vinson VA Medical Center in Dublin and the other outside the main entrance to the Atlanta VA Medical Center in Decatur.
Last week, another shot himself in the waiting room at a VA clinic in Austin.
The names we know are Gary Pressley, 29, and Olen Hancock, 68. The name of the veteran in Austin has not yet been released that I can find.
Regardless, from what I’ve read on each of them, they were all making a statement about the horrible treatment they were getting from the VA for their issues. As Marine Col. Jim Turner said in his suicide note this past December, “I bet if you look at the 22 suicides a day you will see VA screwed up in 90 percent.”
My brothers and sisters, killing yourself is not the way to make a statement. You have loved ones who will never see it as a statement, and your brothers and sisters in arms will not see it that way, either.
Those I went to combat with are some of the people I’m closest to, and I could name a few dozen who wouldn’t hesitate to chat with me if I was feeling down. They also know they have the same with me.
If you don’t have contact with those you served with, the ones who most intimately understand what you went through, you still have military family with similar experiences willing to help you get your head right.
If you really believe the VA is not giving you the care you need and want to make a statement, contact me. I’m a journalist. I write about things like that.
I’ve written enough stories about those we’ve lost, and I tell you — writing about those I knew and admired who were killed in combat is hard enough. Don’t make me write about the one topic I don’t want to.
If you’re in a bind, help is available. Call. We, and your loved ones, will be glad you did.
Military One Source: 800-342-9647
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255
Central Counties Services (Temple): 800-888-4036
Fort Hood Army Substance Abuse Program (Suicide Prevention): 254-287-7575 or 254-287-5245
Maureen Jouett, Bring Everyone in the Zone: 254-681-9112
Military Crisis Line: 800-273-8255, press 1
Fort Hood Chaplains: 254-287-CHAP
Wounded Soldier and Family Hotline: 800-984-8523
David A. BRYANT is an Army retiree and a military journalist for the Killeen Daily Herald. You can reach him at email@example.com or 254-501-7554.