We often use this space to make mention of how we, as a local community, need to do a better job of getting people who live here to take more of an active role in what happens here.
Whether that’s shopping local or volunteering, we need to see a greater involvement locally by the people living in Greenlee County — even those working at the mine don’t necessarily consider Greenlee “home” but rather a temporary residence that offers a good job with very good pay and cheap housing.
We don’t have the answer to how to get those people more engaged, but we believe we have to keep bringing up the issue in order for all of us to figure out what will be the trigger that flips those people into caring about the local scene.
We need to add veterans to the list of people who need to be engaged.
Last week, the American Legion post in Solomon hosted a benefit event to help veterans in Greenlee and Graham counties.
While attendance was good, it could have been better; however, that’s not the fault of the organizers. Whether it’s events at the American Legion posts in Clifton and Solomon, or the armory in Safford, organizers work hard to bring as many providers as possible to the area.
All of us know that, due to our remote location, we suffer a lack of options when it comes to retail shopping. That same obstacle applies to specialty medical care and veterans services.
Our vets deserve all the benefits they have coming to them, but too many don’t take advantage because these are proud, independent men and women. Unfortunately, that pride is costing them dearly.
According to the U.S Department of Veteran Affairs, using data from 2016 (the most recent year available), the suicide rate for female veterans was 1.8 times higher than non-veteran adult women, while the suicide rate for male vets was 1.4 times higher than non-veteran men.
While male veterans 55 and older accounted for most of the veteran suicides, the highest rate was males 18-34. Which means our young men, who have been fighting a forever war in Iraq and Afghanistan, serving too many tours of duty, are coming back only to fight another war, this one for their sanity.
These young men and women need help, but they are too proud to ask, especially from non-vets who don’t understand what they experienced.
The first step for us all to take is to encourage these Afghan and Iraq war vets to join the American Legion or VFW. There, they will be able to talk to men and women who have shared experiences and, perhaps, that will get them on the next step to obtaining the benefits they have and deserve.
America is averaging 22 veteran suicides per day, and one is too many. Talk to a veteran and encourage him or her to stop in at a Legion or VFW post today.