VFW chief: Look out for struggling soldiers

By Kristin M. Hall – The Associated Press
Posted : Wednesday Jun 3, 2009 13:55:21 EDT  

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The head of the Veterans of Foreign Wars organization is urging more than 1.6 million veteran members to reach out to soldiers who may be considering suicide.  Commander in Chief Glen Gardner issued the open letter following the announcement last week that 11 soldiers from Fort Campbell, Ky., have committed suicide in 2009 — the highest of any Army post.  The Army reached the highest rate of suicides on record last year.  Gardner said Wednesday that veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan are more likely to open up to other combat veterans about personal or psychological problems.

“Your credibility goes up greatly with these young people” if you have served in combat, he said. “VFW people are not counselors, they are not trained to be counselors, but those of us who have been in combat can listen and understand what they are talking about.”  He asked the members to listen, be sympathetic and take soldiers to professional counseling through the military or the Veterans Affairs. He said this is first time the Kansas City, Mo.-based veterans group has asked its members to seek out both active duty and National Guard and Reserve soldiers who may be struggling.



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