Fin­ish­ing the mis­sion

Vet­eran’s sui­cide rates in Arkansas need to change

El Dorado News-Times - - News - By state Sen. Trent Gar­ner

When I served as a Spe­cial Forces Green Beret in Afghanistan, we had the motto of “Fin­ish­ing the Mis­sion.”

The phrase sim­ply means that once you start a task, you see it through un­til the end. We lived by this creed, no mat­ter what the task. How­ever, since my hon­or­able dis­charge from the mil­i­tary I have been troubled by a mis­sion we have failed to fin­ish re­lated to our ser­vice mem­bers.

There is one num­ber I want ev­ery­one to re­mem­ber. One num­ber that tells the trou­bling way we are fail­ing those who served us. Twenty-two. Twenty-two vet­er­ans com­mit sui­cide in our coun­try every day. That means we lose more than 8,000 men and women every year. To put that num­ber in per­spec­tive, it is more than the to­tal num­ber of Amer­i­can mil­i­tary mem­bers we have lost in direct com­bat in Afghanistan and Iraq com­bined, since the start of those con­flicts.

In Arkansas, the num­bers are even worse. Ac­cord­ing to the U.S. Depart­ment of Vet­er­ans Af­fairs, the ad­justed rate of vet­eran sui­cide per 100,000 peo­ple in Arkansas is 48.1. That is nearly three times the na­tional aver­age of 17.

That is un­ac­cept­able. We have to do more to serve those who served us. It is time to act.

That is why I am draft­ing

leg­is­la­tion to cre­ate a new task force in the Gen­eral Assem­bly. The Task Force will fo­cus on re­duc­ing the num­ber of vet­er­ans’ sui­cides and re­lated is­sues. I want to bring in the best ex­perts from across the na­tion to work on so­lu­tions to this prob­lem.

With the work of men­tal health ex­perts, ded­i­cated leg­is­la­tors, the Depart­ment of Vet­eran

Af­fairs and vet­er­ans ad­vo­cacy groups, we can and we will save lives.

To­gether, we can fin­ish the mis­sion.

State Sen. Trent Gar­ner rep­re­sents Arkansas District 27, which in­cludes El Do­rado, Smack­over, Junc­tion City, Calion, Strong and Hut­tig. Gar­ner served two tours in Afghanistan and earned a Bronze star with V de­vice, Com­bat In­fantry Badge and Spe­cial Forces Tab.

TRENT GAR­NER

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