Lions hear of effort to prevent veteran suicide
GRAVETTE — Matt Gillespie, of Springdale, was guest speaker for the regular meeting of the Gravette Lions Club Tuesday, Aug. 16. Gillespie is a retired Army officer who works with Operation: Tears of the 22. The organization is so named because 22 veterans a day commit suicide, Gillespie said.
Gillespie said the VA has failed to deal properly with veterans’ mental health issues and many vets do not feel comfortable seeking professional help when they deal with feelings of self-destruction. They get better support from fellow veterans, he said. He and his wife established Operation: Tears of the 22 to help raise awareness and help with the prevention of veteran suicide.
After a retreat with his brother-in-law which helped him feel he could better get through the coming weeks, Gillespie set up a yearly retreat and is trying to get as many vets as possible to participate. The three-day retreat includes food and music and helps vets deal with stress. He is also hoping to purchase a bus to transport vets. Fundraisers have been conducted throughout the area, including raffling off a Harley last year, and Gillespie is seeking any help he can get, perhaps assistance with writing a grant for funds.
Gillespie said his son is now training in psychology and plans to return and help in this area. Veterans agencies will talk to a vet when they have concerns, he said, but they do not provide long-term care. Many VA employees are highly trained, but they are not vets and haven’t experienced the same circumstances a veteran has gone through. So Operation: Tears of the 22 is trying to fill the gap.
Following Gillespie’s presentation, induction ceremonies were held for new member Tylar Lee, new pastor of the Gravette and Decatur United Methodist Churches. Lee was presented his Lions Club pin by Al Blair and his membership certificate by club president Jeff Davis.
Treasurer Linda Damron gave the treasurer’s report and winners of the quilt and banjo the club raffled off on Gravette Day were announced. Damron said the club brought in $465 in the raffle.
Club members voted to order pecans for sale this fall and discussed scheduling for a crockpot festival soon. Some members will be attending the district cabinet meeting Saturday, Aug. 20, on Zoom. Other upcoming events are the club’s annual White Cane Day Saturday, Sept. 17; district convention on Oct. 7 and 8 in Ozark; and Trick or Treat on Main Street Saturday, Oct. 29.
Lions Club meetings are held the first and third Tuesdays of each month at 12:15 p.m. at the Billy V. Hall Senior Activity Center. Guests are always welcome. Lunch is provided.