Veterans’ Issues up Close

By this time tomorrow, twenty-two of our nation’s veterans will have taken their own lives. These men and women served proudly in places as far-flung as South Korea and as nearby as Fairfax County, VA; they fought through and survived in some of the toughest conditions this world has to offer. Yet when many come back home, the invisible inner scars of battle seem too hard to overcome.

With these facts in mind, whenever a veteran calls our office or walks in desperate for help, I work hard to act in a manner which reflects the urgent need that these veterans maintain. An example of one of the many cases we face occurred in our office on Friday; a woman called in with a frantic sound of voice and desperately sought relief from a mental illness exacerbated by a recent deployment. This veteran said she was in contact with the veterans suicide hotline and many of the services we typically direct people to with this kind of need, yet found no remedy. I was caught not really knowing what to do in this situation, as the list of places we direct veterans who seem suicidal was exhausted, yet I understood that I couldn’t let this person off the line. One of our nation’s veterans was calling out for help and she deserved every extra effort. I sought to grab our district director out of a meeting with constituents and we spoke to this woman on the line for close to an hour. While we were speaking, we got on the line with one of the local veterans crisis centers and alerted them to the situation. We included all relevant and necessary information that was being conveyed to us by the veteran and worked to find a solution. Through this effort, we secured a key crisis coordinator and connected him directly to the Veteran’s line. After this was done, a wellness check was conducted for this person and we followed up with continued care through the VA.

I learned a lot from this ordeal and I witnessed just one of the countless hardships our veterans face every day. I thought I was prepared, I constantly read up on the latest efforts related to veterans’ issues and the wide array of challenges faced, but nothing can prepare you for a call like that. I was put back on my heels on Friday. But I will be prepared for the unfortunate yet inevitable next call.

One thought on “Veterans’ Issues up Close

  • July 11, 2019 at 11:00 am

    It sounds to me that despite being caught off-guard and not knowing exactly how to respond, you did a really good job. Having dealt with suicidal issues on college campuses, I know it is really difficult and that no matter what training you receive, it doesn’t really ever address all issues you may face, all nuances, etc. It sounds like you were very fast thinking, keeping the individual on the phone, pulling in the district director, working (while the individual was still on the phone) to identify other resources, etc. You should be really proud of the way in which you handled this very challenging situation. Would you mind if I shared this reflection with my colleague who does communications and social media for Jepson? She is looking to highlight the work that our interns are doing this summer and this seems like a noteworthy experience to share?

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