Few Americans realize that 22 veterans are lost everyday to suicide. These dramatic losses far exceed the current casualties in foreign conflicts.
Early Friday morning, 22 military veterans departed Landrum in the rain on a 22-mile walk to Greer to raise community awareness of the 22 veterans lost to suicide each day.
The first scheduled rest stop was Gowansville. They reached it ahead of schedule. The second rest stop on highway 14 was Skyland Elementary School where they were greeted by a group of supporters and encouragers from local veterans organizations. They provided water and restroom facilities for the walkers.
Tabatha R. Miller, Veterans Outreach Program Specialist represented the U. S. Department of Veterans Affairs at the Skyland rest area. Auxiliary members of several veterans organizations as well as veterans not personally participating in the walk joined her.
As a dark cloud loomed in the western sky, the 22 veterans and those accompanying them departed Skyland for Greer, Led by a Lake Cunningham fire engine and followed by a Greenville County Emergency Medical services vehicle, the 22 veterans were met by a couple of light rain showers, yet they continued to walk.
Spartanburg WSPA-TV and FOX TV covered the march with their cameras.
Several motorists stopped to inquire as to what was happening. This gave the veterans an opportunity to explain that “each and every day we lose 22 Veterans to suicide.”
They explain that this is the equivalent of “almost a football team every day, a school bus of children every two days. It’s 154 brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers every week. One Veteran every 65 minutes and it’s completely unacceptable.”
While the suicide rate was very high for Veterans of the War in Vietnam, never before has the nation required it’s soldiers, Marines, sailors and airmen into combat zones two, three or more times with only short assignments back home with families.
It is true that all were volunteers, however few service members or their families anticipated the stress and hardships created by the frequent deployments and invisible scars left by prolonged combat.
These conditions resulted in serious financial problems resulting in divorce or other family problems. Adjustment from war to a civilian community is difficult and not understood by those who do not experience it. When that adjustment is repeated multiple times, the stress becomes unbearable.
With few exceptions, military Veterans are patriotic Americans willing to sacrifice and even give their lives for their fellow countrymen. They are reluctant to complain or even acknowledge that they have problems resulting from their military service.
If they report PTSD or other related problems to the VA they risk having some of their constitutional rights, such as gun ownership, taken away by the current administration in Washington. As a result, much of the help comes from Veterans helping Veterans.
Emergency vehicles were provided by Landrum, Gowansville, Lake Cunningham and Greer fire departments as well as Greenville and Spartanburg County EMS.
The 22-mile walk ended at Mutts Barbecue in Greer.