Close ranks

As Veterans Day draws near, take a few moments to consider the people who've enlisted in our nation's military and vowed to protect its citizens and fight its wars.

If you're already flipping to the next column, hold on a second. You don't need to be a supporter of war. You can have qualms over military spending. And you can still appreciate veterans—and maybe even thank one—for the jobs they've done for their country and the toll that sometimes takes on them.

In 2017, 116 veterans from Nevada—106 men and 10 women—took their own lives. Nationwide, the suicide rate for veterans far surpasses that of the civilian population. The suicide rate among female veterans is nearly two-and-a-half times that of ordinary citizens. For male veterans, it's 1.3 times higher. The Department of Veterans Affairs reports that more than 20 vets commit suicide in this country every single day.

Ordinary citizens can help in myriad ways—starting with simple things, like taking care in how we engage veterans in conversation.

The disrespect of questions like “Do you have PTSD?”or “Have you ever killed a person?” or “Have you ever been shot?” might seem obvious to some people—but, unfortunately, it's not. Questions like these get asked of vets by friends, family members and even strangers. They're asked at social gatherings. Sometimes they're asked during job interviews. Often, these are painful questions and ones veterans don't want to answer in front of an audience.

Surely, there's no need to jump to the macabre questions—at least not first, if it all. Consider how often the first question asked of surgeons is how many people have died on their operating tables—or of vets how many dogs they've put down. Most people wouldn't lead with questions of that nature, so why do people do it when talking with vets? Is it callousness? Is it the misconception that veterans are stoic heroes with complete control of their emotional responses? More likely it's a lack of discretion.

As Veterans Day draws closer, consider how you might show your support through the many organizations that aid veterans in our community. There's Veteran's Resource Centers of America, which focuses on housing assistance and behavioral health treatment. There's Work for Warriors, and organization that helps vets find careers that meet their skills, knowledge and abilities. There's the David J. Drakulich Foundation For Freedom of Expression, which offers art and recreation programming to veterans. And that's just a few.