These are just a few of the thousands of call stories from the Lifeline for Vets over the last few months. The NVF and the Lifeline for Vets™ – 888-777-4443 – have helped countless American heroes — person-to-person, veteran-to-veteran. That’s vital at a time when suicides among America’s veterans have reached the rate of 22 a day. Over and again, Lifeline for Vets™ and its volunteer professionals have talked veterans back from the brink of taking their own lives. Over the past 21 years we have answered more than a quarter million calls and every day there are more and more.
The Lifeline for Vets is here for all veterans and their families. Women’s Outreach Coordinator Mary Ann Mayer received a call from an elderly, housebound widow in a rural area of Vermont, whose husband was a decorated Navy Vietnam veteran. Since his death six years ago, her only income is a small social security stipend. Winter expenses are typically higher and she was having trouble paying her bills. Lacking central heating, she called because she needed firewood and couldn’t afford it. Mary Ann says it’s the first call for firewood that she’s received. Initially she wasn’t sure she would be able to do anything about it, but she researched, called around and found the Northeast Kingdom Community Action Youth Network in Newport, VT. Their heating coordinator, April, called the widow to let her know firewood was on the way. The Network was also able to assist with her utility bills.
NVF Counselor Steve Duby knew he had only moments to establish some kind of connection to the vet on the other end of the line. The caller was in tears, saying he was thinking of ending his life. Steve drew him out in conversation. A Navy vet, his job in Vietnam had been to transport forces to shore in “a war we already knew we weren’t going to win.” He felt responsible for leading good men to slaughter. The hostile greeting he received on returning home still stung. He now had medical issues and no one to help him access care. His family was distancing themselves. There was trouble between his girlfriend and his family. He felt not only in the middle, but terribly alone. He just wanted to get away from it all. Ending his life seemed like the thing to do.
Steve assured him that these things could be worked out. He just needed to connect with people who could help and who could relate to what he had experienced. Steve called a friend of his, a Vietnam vet, now a veteran advocate, who lives about 50 miles away from the vet. Together Steve and his friend got the veteran to a Vet Center where other people are helping him get the medical care he needs. Steve says the vet is “taking one day at a time.” He calls back periodically “just to shoot the breeze.”
A Vietnam Veteran called in desperate need of repairs to his only source of transportation. He relies on his truck to get him to his VA appointments, 50 miles round trip. His truck has an attached camper: home for this vet. NVF Counselor Greg Flowers reached out to Veteran organizations in his area. American Legion Post 255 in Fultondale, Alabama came through. After talking with Greg, the Chapter Commander visited the Veteran. He sat and spoke with the Veteran and learned that there were other pressing issues—unpaid bills and a non-working refrigerator that needed replacing. Post 255 helped him with auto repairs, purchased new tires for the truck and replaced the refrigerator. The post is slowly helping him pay off some of his past due bills. The NVF and the American Legion came together to help make this Veteran’s future look a little brighter.
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The worst part of war should not be coming home.