WORLD SUICIDE PREVENTION DAY: VETERAN SUICIDE SURGE

September 11, 2019 at 4:45 am

Each year more than six thousand veterans die by suicide. We have the details on a program that enlists vets to save each other from themselves when adjusting to life back home.

For more information on Operation Resiliency and how you can get involved, click here.

Aired on June 3, 2019 and September 11, 2019.

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>>> A SOMBER STATISTIC.
ACCORDING TO THE U.S. DEPARTMENT
OF VETERANS AFFAIRS, EVERY DAY
ABOUT 20 VETERANS DIE BY
SUICIDE, A TRAGIC SITUATION.
HOWEVER, ONE ORGANIZATION IS
TAKING A BIG STEP TO COMBAT THIS
EPIDEMIC.
THE INDEPENDENCE FUND IS
STRIVING TO EMPOWER VETERANS TO
OVERCOME PHYSICAL, MENTAL, AND
EMOTIONAL WOUNDS AS A RESULT OF
THEIR TOURS OF DUTY.
BY TEAMING WITH THE DEPARTMENT
OF VETERANS AFFAIRS, THE FUND
HAS LAUNCHED OPERATION
RESILIENCY, A PROGRAM WITH
PROMISE FOR THOSE WHO CAME HOME
SUFFERING FROM PTSD AND MENTAL
ILLNESS.
HERE WITH DETAILS ARE TWO
SOLDIERS WHO HAVE JUST COMPLETED
THE OPERATION RESILIENCY
PROGRAM.
VETERAN ARMY STAFF SERGEANT ALEX
HAREGI AND DAVID ARMSTRONG.
THEY JOIN ME NOW.
GENTLEMEN, WELCOME TO THE
PROGRAM.
>> ABSOLUTELY.
>> THANKS FOR HAVING ME.
>> WHAT IS OPERATION RESILIENCY?
>> SO OPERATION RESILIENCY, AS
YOU STATED, A JOINT VENTURE
BETWEEN THE INDEPENDENCE FUND
AND THE DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS
AFFAIRS.
AND WHAT IT FOCUSES ON FOR
CONTEXT, AS WE CAME OUT, FOR
EXAMPLE, DEPLOYED IN '09-10 TO
AFGHANISTAN, IT WAS A PRETTY
ROUGH TIME IN TERMS OF FIGHTING
AND COMBAT CASUALTIES.
THEN THE UNIT REDEPLOYS AND
EVENTUALLY EVERYBODY GOES SORT
OF DIFFERENT DIRECTIONS.
MAYBE SOME GET OUT.
MAYBE SOME GO TO OTHER UNITS,
AND A SMALL AMOUNT STAY IN THAT
UNIT.
SO THE PARATROOPERS ARE
REALLY -- DON'T HAVE A WHOLE LOT
OF TIME TO REFLECT UPON WHAT
EXPERIENCES THEY JUST HAD AND
THE REASONS FOR WHY THEY HAD
THEM.
THEY GO ON WITH THEIR LIVES.
THIS IS A GREAT OPPORTUNITY WE
THINK POWERFUL THROUGH THE HUMAN
CONNECTION, THE BONDS THAT THEY
SHARED BACK THEN A CHANCE TO
REVISIT THAT, REFLECT ON IT,
PERHAPS UNDERSTAND IT A LITTLE
BIT BETTER, AND THEN DEAL WITH
OTHER THINGS THAT THEY'VE BEEN
DEALING WITH IN THEIR LIVES FOR
THE LAST NINE YEARS.
WE'RE EXCITED ABOUT IT.
>> ALICE, WHAT WAS YOUR
EXPERIENCE LIKE WITH OPERATION
RESILIENCY?
>> THE FIRST DAY WE DID WAS
AMAZING TO WATCH THE GUYS AT THE
VERY BEGINNING THEY WERE VERY
RESERVED AND CLOSED.
AND THE MINUTE SOMEBODY BROKE
THE ICE AND HEY, MAN, I'VE BEEN
STRUGGLING.
LET ME BE HONEST.
IT KIND OF OPENED THE DOOR AND
EVERYBODY STARTED OPENING UP AND
TALKING ABOUT HOW THEY'VE BEEN
STRUGGLING.
I THINK IT MADE THEM REALIZE
THAT YOU'RE NOT WEAK FOR
ADMITTING THAT YOU HAD SOME HARD
TIMES.
AND THE OTHER PART THAT I THINK
IS VERY IMPORTANT IS AS A
WOUNDED VETERAN WITH VISIBLE
WOUNDS, WE ARE VERY FORTUNATE TO
GET A LOT OF SUPPORT FROM THE
COMMUNITY.
BUT THE GUYS COMING HOME WITHOUT
VISIBLE WOUNDS, THEY GET OUT AND
THEY KIND OF LOSE THEIR
IDENTITY, IF YOU WILL.
SO THEY DON'T GET THE THANK YOUS
AND THE HUGS BECAUSE THEY CAN'T
IDENTIFY THEM.
AND THEY WENT THROUGH JUST AS
MUCH STUFF.
SOME OF MY FRIENDS HAVE BEEN
THROUGH MORE STUFF.
IT'S REALLY AMAZING TO SEE AN
ORGANIZATION THAT IS ALSO
FOCUSING ON THE WOUNDED AS WELL
AS NONVISIBLE WOUNDED.
>> AND IS THAT REALLY THE
IMPORTANCE OF THIS
ORGANIZATION'S EXPERIENCE TO
BREAK DOWN THOSE WALLS OF
PERHAPS ISOLATION THAT PEOPLE
MIGHT FEEL?
>> IT'S ABSOLUTELY CORRECT,
MA'AM.
IT GETS DOWN TO SHARED VERSUS
SAME EXPERIENCE.
SO THERE IS VETERANS ALL OVER
THE COUNTRY.
HIGH CASUALTY RATES ARE NOT
UNIQUE, BUT THE ONLY ONES, OR
THE ONLY UNITS THAT THESE GUYS
EXPERIENCE THIS ONE WITH WERE
THE FOLKS THAT WERE IN THAT
UNIT.
SO THAT IS THE UNIQUE PART OF
THIS PROGRAM IS THAT IT BRINGS
TOGETHER THAT COMPANY WHERE THEY
FORM THOSE EXTREMELY STRONG
BONDS IN COMBAT, AND NOW MAYBE
THAT ALLOWS THEM TO BE JUST A
LITTLE BIT MORE VULNERABLE
BECAUSE THE TRUST IS THERE, THE
HUMAN CONNECTION IS THERE FROM
WHAT THEY'VE ALREADY SHARED.
AND SO THE TEAM GOT THROUGH IN
THE DEPLOYMENT.
NOW THE TEAM CAN HELP TO GET US
THROUGH FOR THE REST OF OUR
LIVES.
>> NOW THIS FEELS INCREDIBLY
REVOLUTIONARY OF AN IDEA, EVEN
THOUGH IT NECESSARILY SHOULDN'T
BE.
AND I'M KIND OF WONDERING IF
THERE WAS ANY PREVIOUS PROGRAMS
THAT WERE DRAWN ON TO CREATE
SOMETHING LIKE THIS, OR IS THIS
BRAND, BRAND-NEW?
>> WELL, I DON'T REALLY KNOW IF
THOSE PROGRAMS EXISTED.
THIS ONE CAME ABOUT BECAUSE OUR
GUYS WERE AT A FUNERAL FOR ONE
OF THE TWO SUICIDES THAT HAVE
HAPPENED SINCE.
AND WHEN THEY SAID HEY, WHEN IS
THE NEXT TIME WE'LL SEE EACH
OTHER, THERE WAS KIND OF A
SOMBER MOMENT AND A REALIZATION
THAT THAT MIGHT BE THE NEXT
FUNERAL.
THE CEO OF THE INDY FUND WAS AT
THAT FUNERAL AS WELL.
HER HUSBAND WAS AN AMPUTEE IN
OUR COMPANY, AND, YOU KNOW,
THAT'S THE IDEA THAT THEN GREW
UP TO BE PARTNERED WITH THE V.A.
TO HAVE SUCH A MEANINGFUL
EXPERIENCE FOR THESE GUYS.
AND HOPEFULLY, FOR MANY, MANY
ORGANIZATIONS AFTER OURS.
>> ALICE, WHEN IT COMES TO AS
YOU WERE SAYING THE PEOPLE WHO
HAVE VISIBLE WOUNDS AND PEOPLE
WHO DON'T HAVE VISIBLE WOUNDS OR
INVISIBLE WOUNDS, WHAT IS IT
THAT YOU FIND WAS ONE OF THE
MORE HEALING EXPERIENCES OF
BEING ABLE TO SHARE WITH PEOPLE
WHO DIDN'T HAVE THE VISIBLE
WOUNDS BUT ABLE TO STILL CONNECT
WITH THEM AND SAY I STILL
UNDERSTAND WHAT YOU'RE GOING
THROUGH EVEN THOUGH THE PUBLIC
ISN'T OBVIOUSLY SEEING IT.
>> LIKE I SAID, THE ONES WITH
VISIBLE WOUNDS, WE'RE VERY LUCKY
TO HAVE THE COMMUNITY WHICH
MAKES A HUGE DIFFERENCE IN THE
HEALING.
BUT YOU STILL GET TO A POINT YOU
ISOLATE YOURSELF AND START
FACING YOUR INNER DEMONS.
FOR ME TO BE ABLE TO OPEN UP TO
MY BROTHERS AND TELL THEM LOOK,
MAN, WHICH HUSBAND IN A REALLY
TOUGH SPOT AND I DIDN'T CALL YOU
GUYS.
SO WHEN WE NEED TO GET BETTER AT
THAT I THOUGHT WAS VERY
REWARDING FOR ME BECAUSE A LOT
OF GUYS WE FOUND OUT THAT WERE
IN SIMILAR SITUATIONS THAT ARE
NOW SEEKING HELP FROM IT.
>> IS THIS THE KIND OF
ORGANIZATION WHERE A LOT OF
TIMES PEOPLE SAY WHEN SOMEONE IS
IN CRISIS THAT REALLY THE ONLY
PERSON WHO CAN REALLY HELP THEM
IS THEM.
IS THIS SOMETHING WHERE FAMILIES
CAN REACH OUT AND SAY, YOU KNOW,
WE HAVE A RETURNINGS OF A
VETERAN WHO HAS RETURNED AND
THEY'RE STRUGGLING, OR IS IT
SOMETHING WHERE THAT VETERAN
SAID THEY NEED TO TAKE THAT NEXT
STEP AND I WANT TO RECONNECT, I
NEED THIS CONNECTION AGAIN.
>> THE FOCUS OF THIS IS
HARNESSING THE POWER OF THE BOND
IN THAT SMALL UNIT TO ASSIST THE
INDIVIDUAL AND THE COLLECTIVE IN
GETTING THROUGH AND COPING WITH
THOSE TOUGH TIMES.
IF A UNIT WOULD LIKE TO A PART
OF THIS, A WAY THAT THAT COULD
HAPPEN IS BY THE COMMAND TEAM OR
SOMEBODY FROM THE UNIT
CONTACTING THE INDEPENDENCE FUND
THROUGH THE INDEPENDENCE
FUND.ORG OR THE V.A. TO SUBMIT A
NOMINATION FOR THEIR SMALL UNIT.
AND THEN THAT WILL BE LOOKED AT
AND BASED OFF OF THE
QUALIFICATIONS OF THAT KIND OF
STRESS THAT THEY HOPEFULLY WILL
BE FOR THE SAME OPPORTUNITY.
>> ALL RIGHT.
AND JUST WONDERING FOR YOURSELF,
IS THERE ANYTHING THAT YOU WOULD
SAY I GUESS ON A POSITIVE NOTE
THAT HAS DEFINITELY CHANGED FOR
YOU ONCE YOU'VE BEEN ABLE TO
REESTABLISH THESE CONNECTIONS?
>> JUST SEEING ALL THESE GUYS,
THEY SAID THE BEST THERAPY IS
LAUGHING, AND WE LAUGH SO MUCH
OVER THE WEEKEND THAT WE CRIED
AT SOME POINTS FROM LAUGHING SO
HARD.
I THINK EVERYBODY, AGAIN
REALIZING THAT THEY WEREN'T
GOING THROUGH ALL THIS STUFF
ALONE AND THEY WEREN'T WEAK FOR
HAVING WHAT THEY WERE GOING
THROUGH.
YEAH, THE POSITIVE IS THAT
EVERYBODY OPENED UP AND REALIZED
THAT IT'S OKAY TO NOT BE OKAY.
>> AND IS THIS SOMETHING THAT
WILL BE SERVING ALL BRANCHS OF
THE MILITARY?
>> YES, ABSOLUTELY.
>> WELL, LISTEN.
ALEX AND ADAMS, THANK YOU SO
MUCH FOR JOINING US.
THANK YOU FOR SHARING NOT ONLY
YOUR EXPERIENCE WITH US, BUT
DEFINITELY WITHIN YOUR UNIT AND
MAKING SURE OTHER UNITS HAVE THE
ABILITY TO RECONNECT WITH EACH
OTHER.
>> THANK YOU VERY MUCH.
>> THANK YOU.
FOR MORE INFORMATION ON
OPERATION RESILIENCY, YOU CAN
VISIT OUR WEBSITE AT
METROFOCUS.ORG.

Mutual of America PSEG

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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