Colorado Legion post brings Be the One to community
(Post 209 Facebook photo)

Colorado Legion post brings Be the One to community

In addition to serving as finance officer for Neal Thomas Jr.-Centennial Post 209 in Colorado Springs, Colo., Legionnaire Jeff Heischman also volunteers his time with Veterans Trauma Court (VTC), a state- and grant-funded program that provides an alternative to incarceration for U.S. military veterans and active-duty military personnel with trauma spectrum disorders and/or substance abuse issues who have proven to be high risk and high need.

When tragedy hit the VTC, Heischman wanted to take his volunteer efforts a bit further. And that’s when he turned into The American Legion’s Be the One veteran suicide prevention program.

“They had just lost one of their veterans to suicide,” Heischman said. “I was talking to the person that was in charge of the VTC, and I said, ‘The American Legion has a program called Be the One. Maybe we can get together and have a seminar or symposium and get the word out and help other people.’”

The concept became reality on March 30, when Post 209 hosted a Be the One symposium for anyone in Colorado Springs wishing to attend and learn more about suicide awareness and Be the One.

Heischman said it was important to make the symposium a community, rather than post, event. “Colorado Springs has several military installations, and a lot of veterans retire here,” he said. “And there are a lot of people that help veterans here in this area. So, we felt it would be a good idea to get as many people from the community that we could.”

During the symposium, Heischman gave a presentation on Be the One, stressing how any individual can be the one to save a life simply by reaching out to a veteran they feel may be in crisis.

Post 209 Service Officer Brian Murphy, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and a Navy veteran, shared personal stories related to mental health and also shared information about VA S.A.V.E. Training. The 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.

Also speaking during the event was Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor Daniel Schreiter, who works with Resurgence of Life Suicide Awareness. A U.S. Marine Corps and Army Green Beret combat veteran, Schreiter shared his own personal struggles and his path toward working to assist others. Around 55-60 people attended the symposium, “which was really a pretty good attendance for the date. Good Friday was the day before and Easter was the day after,” Heischman said. “We will probably have another one later and pick a better date. But it was still a pretty good attendance, and it was a combination between veterans and (mental health) professionals.”

In addition to Post 209, the event also was sponsored by the VTC and Combat to Community, a nonprofit dedicated to addressing the insufficient support for military personnel transitioning or have already transitioned from active duty, specifically those dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder, military sexual trauma, traumatic brain injury and physical injuries incurred during service.

Heischman said Be the One’s mission is why he wanted to bring the program to the rest of his community. “It’s the concern of The American Legion and the concern about veterans helping veterans any way we can,” he said. “And helping to prevent suicide in veterans is a great program.”