Leading from the front to halt veteran suicides
During his travels to small posts across the nation, American Legion National Commander Vincent J. “Jim” Troiola witnesses the value of Be the One.
Family members of veterans who have taken their own life share their grief with Troiola. “They don’t have answers for it, they don’t know why,” he said.
Case in point: About three or four months ago, a veteran revealed a secret to Troiola.
“I’ve been out of the Vietnam War for almost 50 years now,” the commander recalled the man saying. “He said, ‘My brother took his own life. You’re the only one who knows that. My family thinks he died from injuries he received. He shot himself.’ It really broke me up. You realize how bad it is out there.”
During last week’s American Legion Washington Conference, an expert on post-traumatic stress disorder and veteran suicide addressed Legionnaires on the topic. Dr. David Rudd, who was deployed during the Gulf War with the Army’s 2nd Armored Division, was previously profiled in American Legion Magazine and appeared on an episode of the Tango Alpha Lima podcast.
Rudd is the spokesman for The American Legion’s Be the One initiative that aims to reduce the rate of veteran suicide. The mission is to drive more awareness about the issue and available resources while lessening the stigma some associate with mental health treatment. (Learn more about the initiative, download resources and the Legion’s dedicated web page.)
“This campaign is important not just for the Legion but for the entire country,” said Rudd, a lifetime member of The American Legion. “It creates an opportunity to set an example and drive awareness of the difficult problem of suicide among the veteran population. It is a problem that has become more challenging over the past two decades.”
Rudd pointed out that it is normal for those exposed to trauma, combat or otherwise, to face challenges in processing the experience and finding ways to cope with it.
“Often just talking about the problem helps,” he said. “ Acknowledging the reality makes an incredible difference. What the Legion’s Be the One campaign allows us to do is to show that those consequences are normal for the exposure to very unusual circumstances.”
The Be the One campaign is not just for veterans, Rudd noted, encouraging everyone to learn how they can participate.
“I would encourage you to embrace the full potential that the campaign represents,” he said. “It has the potential to do things in a very significant way, not just for the Legion but for the entire country.”
Already, Troiola has seen the support for Be the One as he visits veterans, servicemembers and their family members from coast to coast.
“They realize how sincere The American Legion is about handling this situation,” he said. “But we need more people out there getting involved, more people in these communities because that is where it is all happening. And when you get out there you wonder if the problem is worse than they are saying. And I believe it is.
“But I do know that we are making a difference.”