Department of South Dakota

Photos from National Commander Jim Koutz's visit to the Department of South Dakota.
Photos from National Commander Jim Koutz's visit to the Department of South Dakota.
Photos from National Commander Jim Koutz's visit to the Department of South Dakota.
Photos from National Commander Jim Koutz's visit to the Department of South Dakota.
Photos from National Commander Jim Koutz's visit to the Department of South Dakota.
Photos from National Commander Jim Koutz's visit to the Department of South Dakota.
Photos from National Commander Jim Koutz's visit to the Department of South Dakota.
Photos from National Commander Jim Koutz's visit to the Department of South Dakota.
Photos from National Commander Jim Koutz's visit to the Department of South Dakota.
Photos from National Commander Jim Koutz's visit to the Department of South Dakota.
Photos from National Commander Jim Koutz's visit to the Department of South Dakota.
Photos from National Commander Jim Koutz's visit to the Department of South Dakota.
Photos from National Commander Jim Koutz's visit to the Department of South Dakota.
Photos from National Commander Jim Koutz's visit to the Department of South Dakota.
Photos from National Commander Jim Koutz's visit to the Department of South Dakota.
Photos from National Commander Jim Koutz's visit to the Department of South Dakota.
Photos from National Commander Jim Koutz's visit to the Department of South Dakota.
Photos from National Commander Jim Koutz's visit to the Department of South Dakota.
Photos from National Commander Jim Koutz's visit to the Department of South Dakota.
Photos from National Commander Jim Koutz's visit to the Department of South Dakota.
Photos from National Commander Jim Koutz's visit to the Department of South Dakota.
Photos from National Commander Jim Koutz's visit to the Department of South Dakota.
Photos from National Commander Jim Koutz's visit to the Department of South Dakota.
Photos from National Commander Jim Koutz's visit to the Department of South Dakota.
Photos from National Commander Jim Koutz's visit to the Department of South Dakota.
Photos from National Commander Jim Koutz's visit to the Department of South Dakota.

1 Comments

  1. To conquer a problem we first need to admit that it exists….

    As time goes, we have not been around that long,
    We are tied together through service,
    Service to our country.

    As a group forms, ties that bind are different,
    We wore the uniform in different eras,
    Some completed our hitches, others didn’t.

    We are not connected by wars or peacetime,
    Our connection is so very different,
    Our connection is very tragic.

    We are the Twenty-Two, just a number to some,
    Twenty-Two a powerful number to us,
    Twenty-Two means little to most people.

    SEALs, Marines and others stand to the front,
    Support our Troops the calling card to others,
    Fourteen years of war and many are well known.

    We are the Twenty-Two,
    Forgotten by our country,
    Left behind by our brothers and sisters.

    Decades of war and sacrifice has brought pain and death,
    Casualties mount, deaths count,
    But they are not of us, we stand alone.

    As tragedies go, the Twenty-Two stand tall,
    Twenty-Two times 365 equals 8,030,
    8,030 casualties of service to country.

    How do we not hear of this number?
    How do we look the other way?
    Does anyone care about 8,030 deaths a year?

    We are the Twenty-Two,
    For several years this number has stood,
    Painfully in the shadows we live and die.

    Our story is one of pain and suffering,
    Silently we bear our crosses,
    We struggle to reach out for help.

    1-800 numbers cause anxiety for many,
    Warriors try to help themselves,
    Stereotypes become our enemy.

    Words cannot define who we have become,
    The Twenty-Two served their time,
    Protected the weak, but not themselves.

    Every day Veterans and Active Duty alike,
    Lose their ability to see the end game,
    Fail to reach out for a hand.

    Warriors to the end they suffer silently,
    Finally the pressure wins,
    Decisions go south.

    Every day, Twenty-Two more join,
    Twenty-Two more heroes lose the fight,
    Twenty-Two end their lives.

    Men and women alike fall,
    A nation looks the other way,
    D.C. fails to act.
    How long till we care?

    An open letter to anyone…

    Ronald Zeller, died March 18th, 2011
    William Waller, died July 5th, 2013
    Justin Williams, died November 3rd, 2013
    April Lynn Jones, died May 24th, 2015

    Beside the obvious, what connection do these four people share? For one, they are all from Evansville, Indiana. They were also members of the Indiana Army National Guard assigned to the 163rd Battalion.
    The 163rd Battalion had been deployed to Iraq in 2007 to 2008. All four were members of the same platoon. During this deployment they worked with convoy security much of the time. It was each of their last deployments while serving. For most of them it was not their first time being deployed, but it was Williams first time overseas.
    Justin Williams was the gunner in the truck that April Jones was in charge of. The two of them became best friends and would remain so after their return to the states. Their platoon served in hostile areas part of the time and at others were in areas where the civilian populace embraced them. Though none of them were seriously wounded themselves they were witness to the carnage of land mines and IEDs.
    None of the above is the connection that is most important though. The connection is the cause of death. Had they returned from this deployment and contracted cancer or some other disease that led to their death it would have been a huge news story. Or if the platoon had suffered four dead from combat actions it also would have been in the national dialogue. It would have been an outrage to lose these great heroes either way. “Four from the same platoon!” would have been the tag line.
    Ronald, William, Justin, and April are part of a bigger group. This group includes 22 veterans and active duty personnel each day, 660 a month, and about 8,030 per year. This is a group that nobody wants to talk about very much. This group is a part of an epidemic that is not understood nor is it much acknowledged. All four of these soldiers from the 163rd Battalion of the Indiana Army National Guard that served their country honorably in a time of war took their own lives. These young Americans committed suicide and we need to be able to say it.
    All three men had children, one was married and one engaged. April had a boyfriend and seemed to be on track. But something went wrong. This trend has been in the works at least since 1999, when one major study was launched. We are losing 22 of our greatest per day or one every 65 minutes. They range from millennials to the elderly, but they all served or are serving today.
    Can you imagine if 8,030 military service members had been killed in combat per year during that time frame? That is over 120,000, or over twice the number killed in the Vietnam War. It would be on the nightly news every evening, on the morning shows, and everywhere in between. But since it is just veterans suffering in silence, and not an easy problem to face, it disappears. Actually, the total combat and other deaths in both the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars are less than a one-year average of 8,030 in this study.
    Most fall back on the old template that the government has established 1-800 help lines for veterans and that the VA has all of the resources in place to help them. The VA does work diligently and, for the most part, does a great job. But the job they do has so many facets and different missions that theirs is the most daunting task. Now, after 16 years of terrible suicide rates when will someone try something new to augment these efforts?
    Veterans tend to be a hardheaded group. Image that. They are trained from the beginning that they are there to stand up for those that can’t stand up for themselves. Veteran’s have served their nation proudly, and signed one of the only contracts in the world that virtually guaranteed an opportunity to settle that contract with their blood or their lives. So when service members leave the military they don’t tend to reach out for help when they need it, they swallow their problems. Nobody wants to be pigeon holed as the “crazy veteran”. That is a moniker that was never earned but the Vietnam War era civilians created to forward their own agenda.
    Recently a cartoon was published that showed a veteran being pulled under water. Around him were four sharks reading, PTSD, marital stress, depression, and suicide. The caption from the vet was “I don’t need help, I can rescue myself”. But around his ankle was a chain connected to an anvil that read Pride. This was, possibly, one of the most profound cartoons that was every produced about veterans.
    So what is the answer? Is it an 800 number or a counseling session when they get home? There are procedures and programs that help military members when they return from overseas or leave the military. But, for the most part, there are not people engaged with the veterans as they are readjusting to civilian life. National Guard personnel take on the huge task of jumping into uniform when told to, training, deploying, returning, and jumping right back in to being a “normal” civilian again. That is a pretty rough road to take, but they do it willingly and just keep coming.
    There is not an answer to every one of these tragic losses, but there is a force that could make a difference. There are millions of members of the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars and Disabled American Veterans that could do more good on Main Street America than any number in the back of a phone book ever could. But it would take change.
    Those that want to help have to be willing to do the work necessary to be aware of people in their own area that have either served, are serving today, or are in the combat zones. They have to do the work to let them and their families know that help is available them regardless of membership status in any veteran’s organization. And people have to be willing to listen to those that come to them.
    The American Legion and individual posts, along with other veteran’s organizations, have done great things since their inception and they continue to do great things today. But, unfortunately, the challenges being faced today scream for people to step up, open up their hearts and minds, and do more for those that serve their nation and for their families.
    The question is, will people step up and do what is needed to do or will the easy road be the choice? Only time will tell if we make the right decision.

    Curtis M. Hendel, USAF veteran
    507-920-5980

By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.