Making connections, saving veterans’ lives

Making connections, saving veterans’ lives

The American Legion delivered its Be the One message during a special summit conducted by the Kansas City VA Medical Center on Sept. 29.

A dozen presenters, including The American Legion, discussed suicide prevention, mental health awareness, available resources for veterans and their families, and more. Topics included community-based solutions, Vet Centers, gun safety, the role of caregivers, women’s health, family support and more.

Charlotte McCloskey is the VA Kansas City recovery coordinator for mental health and daughter of a veteran. She coordinated the KCVA Veteran Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Summit, which was attended by about 100 veterans, supporters and their family members.

“While the VA is the center, it’s really about creating spokes so that we all connect,” she said. “The summit is a way to connect organizations like The American Legion that all care for veterans. We want people to not only get information but to share information.”

Briget Lanktree, deputy chief of the KCVA’s Mental Health/Psychology unit, helped opened the summit.

“Mental health is one of the most important services and suicide prevention is the most important thing we do,” Lanktree said. “We appreciate all of you for being here and working together to support our veterans, whatever that specifically means for them.”

Army veteran Tom Tanner, the 5th District commander for the American Legion Department of Missouri, handed out information and engaged with other attendees. 

“We’re going to talk about what we can do to help our servicemembers through some tough times,” said Tanner, a member of Post 21 in Independence, Mo. “It’s a big deal. We’re losing approximately 22 servicemembers and veterans a day to suicide. We’ve got to get the word out. We’ve got to get the number down from 22 to zero.”

As Suicide Prevention Awareness Month concludes, McCloskey sees the summit as a way to springboard the learnings into positive change.

“It takes all of us,” she said. “This also means we can all lean in together as we help someone in the moment who is suffering or has experienced a loss. Together, collectively, we will do better.”