In this week’s episode of The American Legion Tango Alpha Lima podcast, the special assistant to the president for Veterans Affairs discusses Be the One, White House initiatives and the death by suicide of her father, a Navy veteran.
The American Legion’s Be the One program educates, encourages and empowers everyone to take appropriate action when a veteran or servicemember may be at risk of suicide. The goal is to raise awareness, destigmatize mental health counseling and reduce the rate of veteran suicide.
Terri Tanielian, who was a speaker at The American Legion’s Washington Conference in March, first became interested in the topic when she worked on a study at a think tank.
“We were trying to understand the impact of deployment and look at the potential causes of Gulf War Illness,” she recalled. “I became fascinated with it. I really dove into the work to understand the challenges, the traumas, the deployment-related stressors and opportunities that were facing our military members and their families.”
In her role at the White House, her number one priority is the veteran suicide issue.
“This is very important and was mentioned in the State of the Union address this year,” she said. “We need to do more to address the number of veterans who are dying by suicide each year.”
That’s at the heart of the Be the One initiative.
“I’m really grateful for the work The American Legion is doing through this program,” she said. “I think it’s going to be the game changer we need.”
Tanielian also discusses how community and caregivers play a significant role in the care for servicemembers and veterans. She has worked with The American Legion for years, and grew up attending many family events at an American Legion post in Hudson Falls, N.Y.
She said in the coming year, VA will roll out new ways to support caregivers and their families.
“One of those is support from mental health services because we know that caregiving can be stressful. And we want caregivers to be supported so they can live healthy lives and they can support their loved ones.”
Also on the episode, hosts Jeff Daly and Ashley Gutermuth offer their thoughts on:
• Memorial Day and Poppy Day, of course.
• The renaming of Fort Hood. The Texas Army base dropped the name of a Confederate general and was renamed as Fort Cavazos, in honor of the Army's first Latino four-star general.
• A good girl’s mission aboard the USS Gerald Ford.
Check out this week’s episode, which is among about 180 Tango Alpha Lima podcasts available in both audio and video formats here. You can also download episodes on iTunes, Google Play or other major podcast-hosting sites. The video version is available at the Legion’s YouTube channel.