On August 28, I was walking through the airport in Charlotte, N.C., getting ready to come back to South Dakota from the 51st annual Sons of The American Legion National Convention. I arrived approximately two hours early. When I reached my gate, my phone rang and it was a very good friend. One who I regularly do buddy checks with. This friend is a veteran, but does not claim the veteran status as he never went overseas. In his mind, he did not sacrifice to claim that status. He is a very humble person. After speaking with him for a few minutes I could tell something was not right.
He indulged to tell me that the night before, his wife packed up the kids and left him and he has been up drinking all morning/early afternoon and did not know what to do. I proceeded to talk to this friend/veteran for an hour and a half. Just saying things like “we’ll get through this,” “don’t make any spur of the moment, irrational decisions” and “everyone has the opportunity to start new.” At the end of our conversation this friend thanked me over and over and said by me answering the phone and talking with him, I more than likely just saved his life. I told him in my mind I was just being there for a friend.
Shortly after hanging up the phone, we had help for this friend/veteran. As I type this, I am proud to say this friend has just completed 30 days of counseling and is starting fresh, so to speak. The next day after the call, (Tuesday), I had a (Sons of The American Legion) squadron meeting. I spoke up and asked if anyone has heard of (The American Legion’s) Be the One (suicide prevention) campaign. Out of a room of around 30-40 Legion and SAL members, two raised their hands. I informed everyone of the campaign and the situation I had the day before. I left the veterans/friends name out, but told them of the whole situation. I did this not for recognition, but for two reasons.
The first reason being that we never know when it will be our turn to Be the One. We do not have to have all the answers when we get the phone call, but we need to be able to lead the person needing help in the right direction or get the right people there to help them. The second reason being that if we Legion and SAL members ever wonder why we pay our dues, this is a perfect example. Although I knew this friend/veteran previously, being involved in the Sons and Legion together grew him and I as brothers. Being active and part of this brotherhood created a family that he knew he could rely on, and I am forever grateful for that. These two reasons is why I am not shy to attach my name to this because I will forever preach the awareness of Be the One and the benefits of belonging to the American Legion Family.
I find it ironic that this all occurred the same weekend of the national convention where it was preached of Be the One. This just goes to show that we never know what others are going through and when it will be our time to Be the One!
Casey Hanson of South Dakota is vice chairman of the Sons of The American Legion Membership Committee.