There is genuine hope that once the complete numbers are tallied, the number of military suicides in 2013 will be lower than the high set in 2012 — 514 deaths.
If this occurs, it will likely be the result of proactive efforts in the military to get soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen to seek help when they need it.
There has been a genuine reluctance to seek that help because this is thought to carry with it a personal and professional stigma — a sense, perhaps, that asking for help is a sign of weakness.
No. Know that if you are an active-duty member anywhere, asking for the help to get better — for yourself, your family and your unit — is a sign of strength and resolve.
Kudos to the military branches for the efforts, though even 415 suicides — last year’s figure without final reporting from the Army and Marine Corps — is still too high.
But also disconcerting are some figures reported for former members of the military. A nation’s duty to them does not go away just because they are no longer serving.
A recent San Antonio Express-News article reported that one specific set of Veterans Affairs Department figures for 2011 had nearly doubled from 2009 — from 88 to 152. This was for suicides of male veterans 18 to 29 years old.
This is a complex issue, in the military and out.
But we note what might be a disturbing corollary. This group of veterans who served post-9/11 also report a higher level of joblessness — 10 percent — than both civilians and other groups of veterans.
This, of course, could be a chicken-or-the-egg question. Is that relatively recent veteran jobless because of issues that might include thoughts of suicide, or is unemployment — making personal and family responsibilities hard or harder to meet — the cause of those thoughts?
Moreover, disability rates are higher for veterans, and this, too, could be a significant factor.
But a caring nation would make sure that joblessness as a factor would be removed as much as is possible, while pursuing remedies for all other factors.
Texas, at least, has stepped up. Now, the task is to vigorously get the word out.
One of the obstacles to civilian employment has been the failure to count relevant military experience.
During the last legislative session, San Antonio state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte authored, and the Legislature approved, a measure that requires state agencies to accept a license issued by another jurisdiction for veterans.
But another provision also directed agencies to credit valid military experience toward state licenses and certificates where appropriate — for instance, in truck driving, or using special forces training toward law enforcement certification.
But not every veteran will have the kind of military experience that easily translates into civilian jobs, though we’d argue that discipline, leadership and fidelity to duty can be read into the resumes of most honorably discharged veterans.
This veteran will most need further training and education. There is already the GI Bill and other programs.
And, in Texas, there was earlier College Credit for Heroes legislation that allows veterans to get credit from military experience toward a degree or certification.
No, jobs are not the total answer to what is a complex issue. But jobs are key to the transition to civilian life.
Alleviating joblessness in this cohort of veterans will undoubtedly help. So, employers: Hire a vet.
And Texas and the federal government should explore what more can be done, tackling all else that may be standing between a veteran and a productive life.
— San Antonio Express-News