September Surprise: 22 Veterans per Day Clearly Aware of Suicide
Seriously though, thanks for the month
This is actually a real number you should call if you need help.
DEFENSE SUICIDE PREVENTION OFFICE, Arlington, VA - As September’s Suicide Prevention Month draws to a close, signaling the end of yet another year’s performative awareness efforts, Brig. Gen. Anthony Clark, Director of the Defense Suicide Awareness Office declared victory in the fight for suicide awareness, saying one thing is clear: at least 22 veterans per day are very aware of suicide at this point.
“The final numbers are not in yet, but based on previous years’ stats and this year’s stop light charts, we are confidently predicting an on-track September regarding awareness of active duty military and veteran suicide,” Clark announced to a press gathering at Arlington National Cemetery. “Honestly, things looked dark by late August. After steadily climbing over the course of the Global War on Terror ™, veteran suicide rates have dropped since really peaking in 2018. We kind of needed a Hail Mary to get things moving again.”
Concerted efforts by both official and unofficial entities in the battle for veteran suicide awareness really paid off according to Marine veteran Ryan Tongley, speaking from a burn unit hospital bed after surviving lighting himself on fire in the parking lot of a VA Treatment Center in Casper, WY.
“Honestly, with my therapist, a new girlfriend, and my service dog, I felt pretty much on an even keel. But then, last June, I went to get the VA seeking physical therapy for the knee I had replaced after the IED in Sangin back in 2009,” Tongley said. “By late July I actually wondered if I was part of a study on subjecting vets to endless circles of suffocating bureaucracy and gross administrative incompetence. By August I really began to be aware of suicide as a concept. Then came September and by the eleventh, I had a new nickname. And yet another huge life failure of course.” Fellow veterans in the burn unit call Tongley “The Roman Candle”.
Brig. Gen. Clark says the dedicated efforts of the VA are not the only reason for veteran’s heightened awareness of suicide. Other elements within the US government also worked hard to help make veteran awareness of suicide a visceral reality. Clark cited former paratrooper and Bronze Star with Valor recipient Kurt Stoker as a “suicide awareness success story”.
Stoker apparently became particularly aware of suicide while walking on the edge of the hotel roof on August 29, 2023, two years after departing Hamid Karzai International Airport amidst a seething maelstrom of human suffering. In what the 82nd Airborne Division Public Affairs Officer called a “journal entry” written in Sharpie on the bathroom mirror of his room on the sixth floor of the Fayetteville, N.C. Embassy Suites, Stoker credited the Department of Defense, the Department of State, and a succession of four US presidents with giving him the “unshakeable sense that I wasted a decade of my life fighting for something few Americans cared about and few Afghans truly valued.”
Clark also credits private efforts with increased levels of veteran suicide awareness. Calling the effects of such a last-minute awareness “a September Miracle”, Clark read from a note prior Navy Corpsman Anne Racine scrawled on a Dunkin’ Donuts receipt. Racine became suicide aware on September 26 following a crippling addiction to legal opiates prescribed to her by a Navy Doctor.
“I didn’t know what to do with the soul-crushing weight of this world. I felt compelled by my husband and newborn child to continue on despite the overwhelming burden of my ennui and crippling post-partum depression. Then I saw two shirtless guys in ranger panties rucking to a Dunkin’ Donuts and thought, ‘A-ha!’.”
Though organized efforts to raise veteran suicide awareness cease with the coming of October, some active duty service members already promise to do their part to avoid becoming post-service statistics. Airman First Class James Gungy says September definitely made him more suicide aware.
“Honestly, I always considered suicide something for people who just can’t suck it up. But the more people talked about it this month, the more I started thinking about my girlfriend leaving me for a Del Taco manager while I was deployed. Then I started thinking about what an asshole my Chief is to me and that maybe, in fact, it won’t ever get better. Anyway, I have to take some stuff to Goodwill.”
Thunder Chicken thinks the world is better with you in it and wants you to know you can dial 988 to find someone who cares about you. But less mandatory training about that would be OK too.