LUBBOCK, TX (KAUZ) - As statistics show at least 20 veterans taking their lives every day, Lubbock area White Star Families, community members and leaders hope a discussion Friday will continue to prevent more heroes from dying from suicide.
The executive director of Stop Soldier Suicide, Shawn Jones, spoke to members of the Lubbock Police Department, Lubbock Fire & Rescue, State Representative John Frullo, Lubbock City Councilwoman Latrelle Joy, five Medal of Honor Recipients and other attendees of Friday's veteran and soldier suicide prevention discussion.
He said it's tough for veterans to return home and everyone must be part of helping their transition from war.
"When it comes to suicide and veterans suicide, it's not a military or government issue, it's a community health issue," Jones said. "You're around veterans and you may not always know that and to fix this trend, it's going to take the entire community to do that."
Stop Soldier Suicide was founded in North Carolina in 2011 by three Army officers affected by suicide. Jones said everywhere and in every community there are veterans who need help.
"We provide resources to past and present military members and their families," Jones said. "We also provide two years of case management. That's when we can really work with these individuals through each step depending on where they are in the process. We find resources anywhere from therapeutic modality to retreats to financial assistance, housing assistance. You name it, we try to find it."
The White Star Families who spoke Friday said they wished they would have known of resources like Stop Soldier Suicide or Lubbock's VetStar.
Susan Felty lost her son, Joe Dan, to veteran suicide after he returned home from his third deployment in Iraq.
"He came home in 2011 just before they deployed again, he left the army and came home and came back a very different young man," Felty said. "What I would want people to know is there are many avenues of help available that we did not know about at the time."
Felty hopes a conversation about this topic will remove the stigma from suicide.
"It's not a shameful thing," Felty said. "I believe my son died from an illness, depression. Suicide is a symptom. That's a hard sell in some segments of society. But, if we can get that message across, I think it will be easier for people to reach out for help."
Lisa Fuentez lost her brother, Jeffery, after his service in Afghanistan as he also wasn't aware of the help available.
"I think if he found a group he could relate to, then he felt like that could have been his getaway and be a positive influence in his life and he didn't get that and those resources," Fuentez said.
She wishes the community and affected families and veterans will seek out assistance during their struggles.
"People don't talk about it enough," Fuentez said. "If you don't ask, no one is going to tell you. They'll just keep it to themselves. Just be aware and find the resources and have a relationship with that person. Not just call and check say 'hi', but really have a relationship where they can open up to you."
For more information about Stop Soldier Suicide, click here.
For VetStar, click here.