I don’t know who they were, but they odds are nearly 100% perfect that it’s true. It will be true on the day I post this, and it will be true on the day that you read it. Another Veteran will have succumbed to the struggle and died by suicide.

The Veteran who took their own life yesterday does not fit any specific set of criteria. There are no biases, no discrimination when it comes to the epidemic of suicide. She could have been a young female OIF/OEF Veteran; he could be an older male Vietnam Veteran. The despair knows no boundaries, plays by no rules, picks no favorites. It attacks grandparents, sons, daughters, aunts, cousins, friends, lovers, strangers. This tragedy is not even bound by borders; Canada, the UK, countries around the world are struggling with increased suicide rates among veterans. The Veteran who took their life yesterday could have been someone from a coalition partner that we served with in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Rank or profession is not a protective factor. The Veteran who took their life yesterday could have been a senior leader, or a junior soldier; they could have had all the resources in the world, or no resources at all. This insidious event has taken Chaplains, mental health professionals, medical professionals. All Veterans. All vulnerable, hurting, in pain.

Suicide, at it’s most basic, is an attempt to stop pain: physical pain, emotional pain, even spiritual pain. But pain does not last forever; suicide does.

As time continues to pass, many among us realize that we have lost more friends after deployment than we did during deployment. For those of you who served, you understand what I’m talking about, and understand how impactful that is; many units suffered significant casualties while deployed, enough for a lifetime. But the losses by suicide eclipse those; even one Veteran death by suicide is enough for a lifetime. It is my prayer that the loss yesterday is the last, because I so desperately want this to stop, but I understand that it will likely not be.

There have been small conversations about this, and giant multi-series articles about it. And it still happens. The thing about the Elephant in the Room is, even when we start talking about it, the Elephant is still there. Because it’s huge. And real. Organizations such as #22Kill and the IAVA have made efforts to talk about it; there are national hotlines and state hotlines available for those in need, there are technologies such as the Operation Reach Out app, there are countless websites, blogs, chats, groups, organizations, foundations, and nonprofits dedicated to putting a stop to this detestable event. And yet it still happens.

But that’s where you come in.

Because yesterday, a Veteran’s life was saved. Someone reached out at just the right time. Someone said just the right thing that was needed at the exact moment that was needed…and that’s how we take care of the Elephant in the Room. Remember the old saying? How do you eat an elephant? Pick and ear and start chewing.

You. Right there, reading this. You have the ability to save a veteran’s life. I know you have the desire. Keep an eye out for the opportunity.

You may wonder, “what can I do?” The answer is: simply be present. Show up to the fight. Reach out to your old Veteran buddies, let them know that you are there if they need it. Let them know that you will answer the phone, day or night, rainstorm or snowstorm, close or far away. You don’t know what to say…that’s fine. There have been times where others have told me that something I said helped them out of a dark place, and I didn’t even know they were struggling at the time.

You and I, individually, are not going to keep every Veteran from taking their own life tomorrow; the #22Kill ring that I have on my finger is not some magic talisman that is going to somehow infuse me with the mystic power of suicide prevention. What that ring does, however, is keep my goal in my mind. When I look at it, I am consciously reminded that I must be aware of the signs of hopelessness and despair in those Veterans I come across…whenever or wherever I meet them, if it is sitting in front of me in my office, in jail, online. I don’t want to see another individual who has served their country to die. I don’t want to see them homeless. I don’t want to see them behind bars.

You have the ability to save a Veteran’s life tomorrow. You don’t have to be a Veteran to do so, but many who served feel that only another Veteran will understand. If you sense that someone is hurting, then reach out. Ask them. Let them know that whatever hopeless and despairing place they may be in, they are not alone. Coming from a complete stranger, that could mean next to nothing; coming from someone they served with, that could mean everything. Put your hand on their shoulder, look them in the eye, and tell them, “Seriously. Dude. I don’t want you to die.” Easy? No. But neither was reading this post. Neither is reading the articles. Neither is realizing that, unless I do something with those in my immediate circle of trust, this tragedy will not end.

If you are hurting, reach out. If someone forwarded this post to you, or printed it out and handed it to you, then they care enough to let you know that they want you to live. Is asking for help easy? Sometimes, yes. Many times, no. Do you feel like no one understands? Sure, but just because you think nobody cares or understands doesn’t make it true. The fact is that even if there is one person who does not want to see you die, then there is someone in the world who cares. If there is one, then the hope is that there will be more. With hope, and with help, the veteran’s life that can be saved tomorrow can be yours.

I searched for “veteran suicide prevention” on Google and came up with 547,000 results in .3 seconds. The resources are out there…but the greatest resource in this fight is one person reaching out to another. Together, we can get the elephant out of the room.


Did you enjoy this post? You can read it and many others like it in the first Head Space and Timing eBook, available for purchase on Amazon now.

Duane France

Duane K. L. France is a combat veteran of both Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as a mental health counselor practicing in the state of Colorado. Do you want to join the conversation regarding veteran mental health? Share, like, and comment. Read Duane's previous posts and follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn. Keep the conversation about #veteranmentalhealth going.


Sharon Gaul · February 2, 2017 at 10:43 am

Each month on day 22, I sent a private message to ten veterans, most of whom served with my son in Afghanistan and Iraq. Just a “Hey, how are you doing? Thinking of you. Need anything?” I have always gotten a return message. “A thank you. A comment about family or a work or hobby related story.” It takes only a few minutes just to check in with a “buddy.”

Susan Ruiz, PhD · June 19, 2017 at 10:00 am

Thank you for taking this urgent need on- so many are needlessly dying. I found the comment, “The resources are out there…but the greatest resource in this fight is one person reaching out to another” on-point!! If each of us would commit to encourage and support a veteran (or even a family member), we could make such a huge difference! – God Bless!

Brian Murphy · June 1, 2018 at 11:26 am

Thanks brother for continuing this mission. The mission continues for us both. Serving veterans has been the biggest honor in my life. Hopefully we can both make a difference in this fight. Don’t give up, don’t EVER give up!

Let's Talk About Veterans for a Minute | Veteran Mental Health · July 9, 2016 at 6:21 pm

[…] We Lost Another Veteran Yesterday. Veteran suicide is an epidemic and a seriously difficult fact of life. This post addresses that fact, while also addressing the fact that each of us has the ability to save a veteran’s life as well. […]

The (Inappropriate) Case for Suicide – Head Space and Timing · April 20, 2017 at 4:00 am

[…] were the names of the veterans who took their own life yesterday? Or the ones who took their life on the day Robin Williams killed himself? Just because we […]

National Suicide Prevention Week 2017 — Head Space and Timing · November 16, 2017 at 5:22 am

[…] We Lost Another Veteran Yesterday […]

Comments are closed.