By Pinkston News Service
WASHINGTON, DC—(Pinkston News Service)—As the U.S. military continues to grapple with rising suicide rates among its members, the head of a veterans services organization warns that failure to take care of active duty personnel and veterans could lead to a drop in military recruitment. And if that happens, “it becomes a national security issue,” said Cole Lyle, executive director of Mission Roll Call. He discussed the issue earlier this month on an episode of the Coffee with Closers podcast.
“If people don’t believe they’re going to be taken care of while they’re on active duty and mothers and fathers don’t believe their sons and daughters are going to be taken care of when they leave the service active they won’t support them to join the military and if we get into another major war or something there’s a very real possibility where they are [our military] won’t be able to recruit enough people,” Lyle said. He also noted that military service is becoming a “family business.” According to a Pew Research Center survey, almost 80% of veterans “have an immediate family member who served in the military.”
Mission Roll Call (www.missionrollcall.org) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization serving more than one million veterans at the federal level. Suicide prevention, better access to health care and addressing the unique challenges facing tribal and rural veterans are its top priorities, according to the group’s website. Lyle, a Marine Corps veteran who served in Afghanistan and has been open about his own struggles with post-traumatic stress, was instrumental in enacting the National Puppies Helping Wounded Service Members Act ( PAWS) last year. PAWS law requires the VA to implement a grant program to match service dogs with eligible veterans.
About 17 US veterans die by suicide every day, according to the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Last year, a study by Brown University’s Costs of War Project found that more than 30,000 active duty service members and veterans have died by suicide since 9/11, four times the number of service members killed in 9/11. combat operations during the same period.
To address the military suicide crisis, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced in March the creation of an independent commission to assess the state of the government’s “prevention and response activities” to suicide.
“One death by suicide is one death too many. And suicide rates among our military are still too high. So clearly we still have work to do,” Secretary Austin said according to information released at the time of the commission’s announcement.
Veterans who wish to share their concerns with Congress or need assistance can contact Mission Roll Call at: https://www.missionrollcall.org/get-involved