By Connie Hunter

New VA statistics indicate that our national daily suicide rate among veterans has decreased from 22 to 20 veterans per day committing suicide.

Before we go forward with a sense of accomplishment, let’s recalibrate for perspective. As such, sharing what was shared with me from Kevin Bourgault, co-convener of the upcoming VA Healthcare Summit 2.0.

Backstory: a Native American, Bourgault is also a disabled veteran ... combat veteran … served in the Army as an infantryman in Somalia ...10th Mountain Division ... the same division as my nephew Sgt. John “Kyle” Daggett’s enlisting battle buddy R.J. Mann, Jr. Kyle died from wounds sustained in a firefight in Iraq, 2008.

Summit 2.0, is Sept. 21 at SWOCC, Curry campus, 9 a.m. veterans focus group/listening sessions; 10:30 AM presentations and community conversation with executive staff from VA, ODVA, CCO’s and local providers.

So, in preparation of this important opportunity for veterans’ voices to be heard at the Summit, Bourgault explained the math on what 20 suicides per day is with relation to a military unit and a division:

“We are losing a battalion of veteran service members per month.

“There are three battalions per brigade…that means we lose a brigade every three months. That is atrocious. That is the military touchstone that people need to understand. That is nearly a division a year. … A division is an entire base. To date, over 100,000 estimated veteran suicides since 2003.”

Why attend the upcoming VA Healthcare Summit 2.0? Share ideas and help build the safety net for veterans and family members. Use the voice that you have as a veteran, a citizen, or military veterans’ community stakeholder. Honor the sacrifices of those who have served, including our female veterans (who are at an even higher risk of suicide and homelessness than male veterans).

Also, I wanted to share a quote attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt to all to come and be a part of the solution: “Small minds discuss people; average minds discuss events; great minds discuss ideas.”

During September, Suicide Prevention Month, let’s also keep our combat warriors and family members of our fallen in our thoughts and prayers.

At this time, being from Arizona, if I didn’t show due respect for Sen. John McCain, I would be negligent. Here is a relative quote from him: “I don’t mind a great fight. For reasons known only to God, I’ve had quite a few tough ones in my life. But I learned an important lesson along the way. In the end, it might matters less that you can fight. What you fight for is the test.”

As a whole community, let’s recalibrate a true north in partnership with veterans groups, faith-based and other community organizations. Act on what matters. Inspire hope instead of despair. Fight the right fight. Be heard.

Come build with us.

Connie Hunter lives in Brookings.

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