Veterans -- those of us who have been there and done that -- can often provide the best help for fellow vets dealing with the aftermath of combat, a task Brian Kinsella has taken on as CEO of the non-profit Stop Soldier Suicide.
I met Brian last weekend in Colorado Springs when I spotted his motorcycle flying a Stop Soldier Suicide banner outside my hotel, where he had stopped for the night on two-week, cross-country trip, which itself amounts to an affirmation of life.
Brian, an Army logistics officer who did a 15-month tour in Iraq and then supported relief operations in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake, viewed his ride as a way to raise awareness about the military suicide epidemic and to explain the mission of his outfit to senior commanders at Army posts along his route.
Brian has personal experience with suicide. As a young officer he dealt with a young soldier who slashed her wrists, but survived, and realized he “did not do enough to help her out.”
Stop Soldier Suicide serves as link between troops, vets and families needing help and the organizations that can provide it, said Brian, now an energy analyst on Wall Street. This includes hooking up troops with free mental health care outside the military system to help avoid the stigma issue.
The focus of this help is at the local community level, and Stop Soldier Suicide has so far set up chapters in Chapel Hill, N.C., and Lawton, Okla., with more to come.
I like Brian’s approach. Yes, the “system” -- Veterans Affairs and the Defense Department -- has all kinds of suicide prevention programs, but as I learned a long time ago, if fellow vet needs help, I am responsible, not the system.