“It’s our duty to help our brothers and sisters heal from the physical and mental scars of war.”
As commander of The American Legion Department of Colorado, Terri Clinton is eager to reach out to military families – especially through Operation Bear Hug, a program intended to raise awareness of veteran suicide and hopefully reduce its number.
“It is an innovative way to deal with it,” Clinton says of the program, which was created by American Legion Post 1879 in Fort Collins. “They do it on a more sensitive basis, providing tools and engaging younger veterans with 5Ks and other things of more a physical nature, instead of a traditional counseling setting. It’s a more holistic approach to reaching veterans who are struggling with PTSD and TBI.”
While Clinton has not personally known anyone who has taken his or her own life, she does know the pain of losing a loved one in the military – specifically, her brother-in-law.
“When you are talking about veteran suicide, it’s one of our brothers or sisters who are struggling and nobody can reach (them),” she says. “We still have that survivor’s guilt. Having experienced the loss of someone through war, I guess that’s why it touches me so deeply.”
Clinton encourages members of the Legion Family to learn all they can about depression, PTSD and TBI so that they are fully equipped to offer support – not just during Suicide Prevention Awareness Month in September but throughout the year.
“Make sure you are in touch with your brothers and sisters who served,” she says. “Keep the lines of communication open, and don’t ignore the signs.”
Branch of Service: Army (1988-1990)
Military Job: Korean linguist
American Legion Post:
Helen K. Osmundson Post 206, Aurora, Colo.
Years in the legion: 14
- Department commander (2017-2018)
- District 5 commander (2014-2015)
- Post commander (2012-2015)
- National Media & Communications Commission member (2013-2017)
- National American Legion College graduate (2012)