More American service people take their own lives than are killed by enemy action, Ken Carrothers, Commander of the Mineral County

Ken Carothers, commander of the American Legion in Mineral County, gives a speech about veteran suicide during Mineral County’s Veterans’ Day ceremony. Carothers urged the people of Mineral County to offer emotional support to veterans. (C.W. Wilkinson photo)

More American service people take their own lives than are killed by enemy action, Ken Carrothers, Commander of the Mineral County American Legion Post, said during a Veterans’ Day service in Hawthorne on Nov. 11.

Carrothers read The American Legion’s suggested speech during the event. About 50 people gathered under Hawthorne’s huge flag to honor those who have served.

“Only those who experienced firsthand the horrors of combat can understand why most of thse young men and women feel compelled to take such drastic and permanent measures,” Carrothers said. “But those of us gathered here to observe Veterans’ Day know that we love them. We appreciate them. We are grateful for their service.”

The easiest way to help a veteran is to show your appreciation, Carrothers said.

“We are their friends, their family, their coworkers and their neighbors,” he read. “It is up to us to ensure that every veteran feels that his or her service to this country is appreciated by their fellow Americans. There are many tangible ways we can acknowledge their sacrifice, but the easiest is simply to say ‘thank you for what you have done for our country.’”

Carrothers also stressed the importance of watching for signs of suicidal tendencies among veterans, and seeking help for those who need it immediately.

“If he is showing signs of unhappiness or depression, encourage him to seek help through the [Veterans’ Administration] immediately,” he said. “If she has had difficulty obtaining the benefits that she is entitled to, let her know that The American Legion has thousands of trained service officers nationwide that will help her navigate the bureaucracy free of charge.”

Carrothers said many of the people who join the service are unaware of the trauma, physical and mental, they will experience in war.

“While they’re there, they’re occupied,” he said. “They’re busy. They’re controlled. They’re maintained. When that’s over, they come home, especially in today’s economy, they come home they’re not really accepted.”

Some come home to find their family situation has changed. Sometimes loved ones die while the service member is deployed or a significant other couldn’t handle the stress of the deployment and move on.

These stresses are frequently too much for returning warriors.

“It’s an epidemic among combat veterans that once they have done the service to their country and come home, they have an empty life,” Carrothers said.

“A lot of them have physical injuries to recover from, and a lot of them also have permanent mental issues. And this is something that people need to be aware of.”

Carrothers also honored the spirit that binds many veterans, and the sacrifices they have made to protect the nation.

“Perhaps most significant in preserving our way of life are the battles that America does not have to fight because those who wish us harm slink away in fear of the Coast Guard Cutter, the Navy aircraft carrier, the Air Force fighter squadron or the Army soldier on patrol,” he said. “Or they have hear the words that recently retired Gen. James Mattis shared with his Marines. ‘Be polite. Be professional. But have a plan to kill everybody you meet.’”