Earlier this year, a study by the U.S. government revealed the prevalence of suicide among military veterans was much higher than originally expected, with 22 deaths a day — or one death nearly every hour.
Released by the Department of Veterans Affairs, the study covered suicides from 1999 to 2010.
The U.S. military also indicated that suicides hit a record high in 2012, outnumbering the combat deaths with 349 active-duty suicides. That’s almost one a day.
One suicide is too many in the eyes of Ashley Whisler, who lost her brother, Kyle Whisler, a Marine who served 10 months in Iraq and Kuwait in 2003. Kyle had suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder for several years following his service overseas. He committed suicide Oct. 25, 2010.
Kyle gained some relief in 2008-2009 when he was paired with a combat veteran for counseling but then the veteran was relocated to a different area and Kyle could no longer see him anymore, Ashley explained. He also had repeated problems securing his Veterans Administration benefits.
“We don’t even know a quarter of what he went through over there,” Ashley said. “He didn’t really talk a lot about it. He didn’t show his emotions… That was the hard part.”
Ashley won’t let his memory be forgotten. She has since partnered with The Voice of Warriors, a support network for veterans and their families. It operates under the mission to bring warriors and communities together through education and resources.
The organization is based in Saginaw. Its website www.voiceofwarriors.com offers significant information about services.
“We want them to know that there are other options for military veterans to get help,” she said. “We are trying to stop the military’s suicides. This is such an awesome organization. They have all sorts of activities and they include everybody – family members and their caregivers.”
Ashley’s motivation to stay involved with Voice of Warriors is having the opportunity to help other veterans.
“I was not able to save my brother, but I hopefully can be a source of support for another veteran,” she said. “Voice of Warriors has been a strong support for my family. Knowing people are there for us and we are helping others keeps us pushing through our tragic situation. Suicide prevention for the military is important to me. This organization is the best and closest way to be a part of helping out.”
Mollie Grywalsky and Patti Katter started Voice of Warriors together after some of Kyle’s friends came into The Bunker back in 2010 for Kyle’s uniform for the funeral.
Patti ended up donating the entire uniform.
“She had resources… she felt she could have helped someone like Kyle and veterans who were struggling so we started VOW (Voice Of Warriors), also Kyle’s family had a really hard time reintegrating after Kyle’s passing,” Mollie said.
Both Mollie and Patti are married to veterans who are working through injuries sustained while serving in Iraq.
“It is so important for me to take the time to give back with this organization,” Mollie said. “I truly feel that this is what I was meant to do. I have a passion to help our veterans and their families. Our family has learned so much through our experiences and through this I have found many invaluable resources that can help others. I need to be the voice for others who can’t do it for themselves.”
Free Printables are available at www.voiceofwarriors.com and include the following:
• Combat and Secondary PTSD – Info and encouragement.
• Music Therapy – Information how music therapy helps veterans with TBI and PTSD.
• TBI – Traumatic Brain Injury information.
• VOW Poster
• VOW Volunteer Application