(This post has been provided by The Archangels founder 1SG Sean Stoddard, in partnership with the MPRA)

In 2017, 45,390 American adults died from suicide which included 6,139 U.S. veterans. We have had over 6,000 veteran suicide deaths each year since 2008. This equates to tens of thousands of our fellow service members dying by their own hands in the last decade.

If this isn’t sobering enough, know that in 2006 the suicide rate was 17.6 veterans per 100,000 veterans with a veteran population of 23,731,000. Eleven years later one might ask with all the money, suicide awareness training, and other resources being allocated towards this epidemic, has the rate gone up, down, or remained the same? The answer is shocking. In 2017, the number of veteran suicides increased by 10.1 to 27.7 per 100,000 with a veteran population of 19,903,000. The number of veterans committing suicide has gone up as our veteran population has shrunk. 

Our Archangels team takes this personally and we hope you do, too. Every decision that is made by the military has a risk assessment. We believe that part of this risk assessment should be mental health. 

Our Archangels team and I are advocating that we keep our current and former Soldiers and the welfare of their families in our minds and hearts indefinitely. There are a lot of lost service members. We encourage you to remove judgement and continue seeking ways to serve our Soldiers and their families while they’re serving and after. Our Archangels team believes that all of us can stand as a lighthouse for those who wander, who are hurting, and who need a hand of support. 

I am only one person and I am not sure how bright my lighthouse is, but I am trying. Imagine if each of the 19,803,000 veterans became lighthouses; there would be no room for the dark. We believe that our country would see a significant drop in the veteran suicide. 

Lighthouses are necessary everywhere – in every command and every group of veterans. They can also be online through positive social media outreach such as Meetup, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube. The reality is that we all have a voice. To get started you just need yourself and the willingness to serve, protect, and defend our brothers and sisters. Wherever you are, we encourage you to organize hikes, shoots, baseball games, yoga, movie nights, video game nights, organizing interaction with animals e.g. therapy dogs, equine therapy clinics, art clinics to rebuild neural pathways, and most importantly finding purpose and meaning in serving others. Plain and simple, you can’t be happy if you are not serving others.

As we all reach out, grasp those who are lost, and bring them back into the light we are mimicking the action we would take if we were in physical combat with our battle buddies. As the second most covered song of all time, Heroes by David Bowie, says “(together) we can beat them (demons and darkness)…we could be heroes, just for one day”. 

When we reach out, serve, forgive, and don’t give up even when we are beaten down, we will find joy in service and we can be heroes not “just for one day,” but again as the song goes, “for ever and ever.” 

Let our service continue, let our fight continue. Let us fight for freedom, goodness, decency, kindness, our brothers and sisters, and their families. Let us fight for life! Let us be heroes to each other and stand as lighthouses in dark times. Let us form interlocking sectors of fire, improve our mental, emotional, spiritual, psychological fighting positions, and end this attack from the enemy of suicide so that we may all fulfill our hope of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. 

About the author:

Sean Stoddard (email: [email protected]holds two Military Occupational Specialties including 31B Military Police and 38B Civil Affairs. He is currently serving in the United States Army Reserves as the 1SG for a Civil Affairs company. He has deployed four times including three deployments as a Military Police Soldier/NCO to Cuba, Iraq, and Afghanistan. He serves as a civilian police officer for a large city police department. He is the founder, president, and CEO of The Archangels, a non-profit that assists military, veterans, and first responders and a recent recipient of the Order of the Marechaussee in Bronze. He is an Eagle Scout in the Boy Scouts of America, earned a Bachelor’s of Science in Criminal Justice and Criminology from Arizona State University (Summa Cum Laude) and serves in his local church.

References:

David Bowie – Heroes (Official Video). (2018, June 13). Retrieved from https://youtu.be/lXgkuM2NhYI

Mental Health. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.mentalhealth.va.gov/suicide_prevention/data.asp

Peter Gabriel – Heroes. (2014, November 9). Retrieved from https://youtu.be/LsvuipGq2ns

The Wallflowers -Heroes / David Bowie Cover. (2015, May 4). Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BSMy_F4ImaE