By Mark Wachtler
April 8, 2014. Washington. (ONN) The fact that a heartbreaking 22 US veterans commit suicide every day, up from 16 per day when Barack Obama took office, isn’t really news. We at Whiteout Press have been publicizing that nightmarish statistic for years. And while a veterans group planted 1,892 US flags on the National Mall last week to honor and raise awareness for them, the American media once again chose to do neither.
Veterans are asking internet users to spread this image far and wide. Courtesy of IAVA.org.
The annual flag-planting effort in the nation’s capitol is the work of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. Their campaign is called ‘Storm the Hill’ and it involves a two-pronged offensive. While dozens of veterans plant one small American flag for each of the US vets who’ve committed suicide the previous year, other veterans from the group travel from states across the nation to corner their Congressmen and demand more be done to help America’s hurting and struggling vets.
Storm the Hill
Adding importance to their annual Storm the Hill effort in Washington, IAVA members also declared last Thursday a ‘National Day of Action’. Veterans across America did anything and everything they could to raise awareness of issues like military suicides, delayed VA benefits, post traumatic stress disorder, predatory collection agencies targeting vets, lack of medical and psychiatric care, and a host of other battles American vets shouldn’t have to fight after fighting on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan.
“By the time you read this, our Stormers will have met with over 121 bipartisan Congressional offices, DoD officials at the Pentagon, and senior staff at the White House,” the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America website proclaimed, “Chances are you aren’t able to be in DC, but that doesn’t mean you can’t play an important role in our Day of Action. Share this image on your social networks to raise awareness about the 22 veterans a day that die by suicide, using the hashtag #CombatingSuicide.” The image they’re referring to is the image used above for this article.
Adding yet another layer to their ‘day of action’, the group asks members and supporters to share the image with 22 of their friends or family - one for each veteran who commits suicide each day. “If every member and supporter of IAVA shares this image with 22 people - one for every veteran that dies by suicide every day - we will reach over 4.5 million people with our message,” their announcement urges, “The statistics are alarming but we can stop this trend. It’s a small action that will make a big difference.”
Recommendations and suggestions
Showing they’re not done yet, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America is appealing to the millions of Americans who may be first hearing about their initiative. It’s no secret that the American media all but censors the plight of veterans. In fact, an extensive search for news reports of the flag-planting ‘Day of Action’ last week found less than a dozen major outlets reporting the story. They included ABC, UPI, NY Times, Forbes, Business Insider, USA Today, NY Daily News, and that’s about it. And a special thanks to the Charleston Voice for publishing the story that alerted us here at Whiteout Press.
IAVA leaders have announced that for 2014, their number one objective will be, ‘combating veteran suicide.’ The vets group writes, ‘The statistics are alarming: 22 veterans a day die by suicide. But the data also says that getting help, helps. That’s why we’re encouraging vets in crisis to take the first step toward getting help – and why we are pushing our lawmakers to ensure that help is both readily available and high-quality.’
The organization says it is calling on Congress and President Obama to, ‘adopt priorities and recommendations to bridge the gaps in care and ultimately break through the negative stigma that is too often associated with seeking help.’ Some veterans advocates, like us here at Whiteout Press, believe the time for studies and committees is long past. 13 years of inaction and broken promises is too much. It’s time to clean house at the VA, Congress and the White House. Here’s a suggestion - replace the 330,000 VA bureaucrats with 330,000 unemployed vets and watch how fast things change for the better.
"The news shouldn't be left wing or right wing, conservative or liberal. It should be the news. It should be independent" - Mark Wachtler, Whiteout Press founder
We’ve got your back
The IAVA has also announced it’s, ‘We’ve got your Back’ campaign, which also happens to be the organization’s official slogan. The effort involves a three-pronged effort including (from the IAVA website):
1. Raise awareness and empower the nation to connect one million veterans with information and support from IAVA’s partners and programs.
2. Push the President to issue a national call to action and change policy with a historic Executive Order.
3. Demand Congress pass a comprehensive legislative package that combats suicide.
It’s somewhat disheartening to think that three years ago, Whiteout Press and IAVA were right here in this same spot and things have only gotten worse since then. The title of our 2011 article, ’16 US Veterans commit Suicide every day’, is an obvious reminder that we’ve seen the number of veteran suicides rise from 16 per day to 22 per day just in the last three years.
The Whiteout Press article from 2011 contained three quotes that make one wonder why nothing has seemingly been done over those three years:
“The VA’s unchecked incompetence has gone on long enough.” – US Appeals Court ruling.
“The suicide rate is out of control. It’s at epidemic proportions right now. There are very few programs that are effective and there is a serious lack of national awareness.” - Paul Rieckhoff, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.
“We do not need the courts to tell us that much more can and should be done to relieve the invisible wounds of war.” - Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.
Senator Murray has a knack for explaining the obvious. Perhaps she can now explain why little or nothing has been done over the past three years. And while she’s at it, maybe she can explain to the American people why 20,000 veterans die each year waiting for VA benefits they’ve earned but will never receive because of never-ending delays and waiting periods. For more information on that seldom-reported fact, read the 2013 Whiteout Press article, ‘Vets Group says 20k Vets die each Year waiting for Benefits’.
And for those Americans out there with a limited attention span or more testosterone than compassion, vet wives are taking off their clothes by the thousands in a desperate attempt to raise awareness of the epidemic of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder among veterans. Read the 2012 Whiteout Press article, ‘Vet Wives bare it to raise PTSD Awareness’.
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