By Paul Szoldra, Business Insider
31 March 14
Extrapolating from a 2012 VA report that found 22 veterans took their lives each day in 2009 and 2010, IAVA members planted 1,892 flags on the National Mall Thursday to commemorate the staggering figure.
“We are losing too many of our brothers and sisters nationwide. And we’re storming the hill to change history and transform a landscape so that America will truly take care of its own who have shouldered the burdens of war,” said IAVA Founder and CEO Paul Rieckhoff in a statement to Business Insider.
Planting the flags was part of a push from IAVA to “Storm the Hill” and get legislation passed to combat suicide within the military ranks. It’s a huge issue — with more than half of the 2.6 million veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan still struggling with physical or mental health problems — many of which know a fellow service member who has attempted or committed suicide, Washington Postreports.
IAVA’s efforts have made an impact, as Sen. John Walsh (D-Mont.), the first Iraq war veteran to serve in the senate, introduced comprehensive legislation that would increase mental health professionals at VA, enhance collaboration with the Pentagon, and review cases of soldiers who may have been wrongly discharged for “invisible wounds.”
“Returning home from combat does not erase what happened there, and yet red tape and government dysfunction have blocked access to the care that saves lives,” Walsh said in a statement to Business Insider. “It is our duty to come together for real solutions for our heroes.”