After joining Simon-Gosney American Legion Post 219 in Alexandria, Ky., around a year ago, Vyneta Barnett came across information on The American Legion’s Be the One suicide prevention program. That’s when her background kicked in.
A former nurse who spent more than 24 years in the U.S. Navy and Navy Reserve — including deploying during Operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield – before working at the Cincinnati VA Medical Center, she wanted to learn more and also spread the word about Be the One.
“I happened to be on the computer and saw something called Be the One,” Barnett said. “Being a former nurse, I said, ‘Oh, that’s for me.’ I’m a nurse, and I know suicide.”
Wanting to get the program started at Post 219, she reached out to her former employer and learned about the VA S.A.V.E. Training that is offered both online and in-person. She set up a training session at Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3205, where the post meets. The session was well attended and brought the training not only to Legion members, but to their families.
“We had several wives attend with their husbands,” Barnett said. “It was a really good program and a really positive experience.”
During The American Legion’s 2023 Fall Meetings, the organization’s National Executive Committee passed Resolution No. 9, which strongly encourages American Legion posts to host VA S.A.V.E. training classes and to invite local community, government agencies, not-for-profits and businesses to participate in the training.
S.A.V.E. Training focuses on four key facets:
· S - Signs of suicidal thinking should be recognized.
· A - Ask the most important question of all, “Are you thinking of killing yourself?”
· V - Validate the veteran’s experience.
· E - Encourage treatment and expedite getting help.
Barnett said she wanted to bring the training to Post 219, “because veterans love other veterans. Being a veteran myself and knowing the problems we’re going through with mental health – the suicide rate is certainly high not just among veterans, but with civilians and teenagers – it’s just something we needed to do.”
Post 219 Adjutant Angela Murphy called Barnett, “a wonderful person, and (I) am so proud of her work on this. We are already making plans for training this year and including local media.”
Barnett said her next goal is to bring Be the One and the S.A.V.E. Training to other posts in Kentucky. “I don’t know what happened,” she said. “I just saw those three words – Be the One – and said, ‘That’s me.’ I’ve been working on this, and I know how important it is.
“A lot of veterans, including from Vietnam, are still suffering, and I think we’re going to have a lot more (post-9/11) veterans suffering. I really think the interest is there (to address veteran suicide). We just need to get more started in the community and with other posts in the area.”
American Legion posts interested in hosting a VA S.A.V.E. training class can facilitate it through their local VA Medical Center’s suicide-prevention team. A post can locate contact information for their local suicide prevention team through the Veterans Crisis Line Resource using this link. Once on the website, enter a ZIP code and press search. Then select the box next to Suicide Prevention Coordinators and press search again. Once completed, you will be provided with the closest suicide prevention coordinator and their contact information.