IAVA MEMBERS UNITE WITH LOCAL ORGANIZATIONS TO COMBAT VETERAN SUICIDE
D/FW Vets Plant 594 Flags to Honor the Veterans Lost to Suicide in the First 27 Days of March
Dallas, Texas- Today, members of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America rallied with the VA and other Dallas area veterans’ organizations to raise awareness of the alarming rate of suicide in the veteran community.
According to a study released by the Veterans Administration in 2012, 22 veterans are committing suicide every day. That’s over 8,000 men and women lost to suicide every year and over 100,000 veterans lost since 9/11.
“When you consider that over the last decade of war we have tragically lost less than 8,000 service members in Iraq and Afghanistan combined, suicide is rapidly becoming one of our biggest domestic enemies,” said Chris Hampton, a former Naval Officer and IAVA member who served as master of ceremonies for the event.
Many suicides could be prevented if everyone learned to identify the warning signs of someone who may be in need of help. “Identification is an important first step in protecting at-risk individuals,” said Veterans Administration Suicide Prevention Coordinator Annie Joseph. “Not everyone will show the same warning signs. Therefore it is important that you always trust your instincts when assessing the situation. Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem, so ensuring individuals seek help as early as possible is critical.”
Keynote speaker Aaron Throckmorton, a Marine veteran who served with the 2nd Battalion 3rd Marines, shared his personal story about how his life has been touched by suicide. His unit redeployed while he was transitioning out of the military. During the time he was going through the separation process, Aaron was tasked to do funeral ceremonies for his brothers from the 2/3. “I found myself deeply depressed and conflicted. My guilt would almost consume me and I would self-destruct.”
Aaron continued to struggle from 2006 to 2011 until he had an accident that changed his life. On October 15, 2011, Aaron was incarcerated after he ran his car into a telephone pole. “The trouble with the law turned out to be a blessing in disguise,” said Aaron. “For the first time, I was forced to face my issues head on through rigorous therapy and after a year and a half I am truly grateful.”
The therapy, along with strong support from friends, helped Aaron turn things around. “Without it I could very well be a statistic and I refuse to be that. I am so much more than that”.
Aaron offered some advice for fellow veterans who may be in a similar situation and in need of help. “The same resolve you had going into combat needs to be the same resolve you have with healing. Seek out help. Use the resources available to you”.
He ended his speech with some words of encouragement. “Live for those who cannot be here to live with you,” said Aaron. “For those who gave up their hopes, dreams, and future so that we may be here today.”
To close the ceremony, IAVA Texas members joined other local veteran leaders to plant the 22 flags representing the number of veterans lost to suicide today. 594 flags were planted in total to honor the veterans who have taken their lives so far this month.
If you or a veteran you know needs someone to talk to, please call the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1 or send a text message to 838255 to receive confidential support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
Some of the participants in the closing ceremony included Jeff McZeal from the Veterans Resource Center; VA North Texas Health Care System representative Annie Joseph; Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8273 Commander Neal Litton; Ginger Simonson from the Denton County Veteran Coalition; Major Andrew White and Robin Valetutto, hosts of KVCE AM’s Kilroy’s Conversation; and Gus Cabarcas, Community Development Coordinator for Hope for the Warriors.
Annie Joseph is a Certified Registered Nurse, has earned a master’s degree in Mental Health, and has been working with the Veterans Affairs for the past 14 years. In 2007, she was selected as the first Suicide Prevention Coordinator when the VA’s Suicide Prevention Program was implemented across the nation. In addition to her work with the VA, she is also a member of Texas Suicide Prevention Council and helps organize Suicide Prevention events across the state.
Aaron Throckmorton enlisted in the United States Marines after September 11th. Upon his graduation from basic training, he was assigned to 2nd Battalion 3rd Marines. Shortly after joining his unit, Aaron was deployed to Afghanistan where he served as an assault-man trained in explosives, armor identification, mountain warfare training, close-quarters shooting, and rappelling from Helo Bourne vehicles. Aside from his personal awards received in the Marines, his unit would receive a Meritorious Unit Citation for their role in “Operation Whalers” against Taliban Fighters, a follow-up to the Navy SEALs’ “Operation Red Wings”. He is currently in his senior year at The University of Texas, Arlington and will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in Advertising with a minor in Psychology. By combining his passions for Crossfit and helping adaptive athletes compete in the sport, Aaron created the Agoge Challenge, an event that will be held over Memorial Day Weekend that aims to promote healing, instill motivation, and inspire both participants and the local community through competition and camaraderie.
IAVA-Texas provides members the support needed to reach their potential as civic leaders and models of responsible American citizenship by providing assistance, creating awareness and veteran advocacy in an effort to set a new standard of leadership.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 27, 2014
CONTACT: Trey Stapleton (682) 597-7022
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