Finishing the mission
Veteran’s suicide rates in Arkansas need to change
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.