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Retired Army officer says ‘soldiers need help’

A rising number of military men and women suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome and mental health issues are causing the suicide rate to reach an all-time high.

These men and women have survived the war but can’t fight the battle within their own psyche — something retired U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer Jerry Venable knows all too well.Venable spent two tours in Vietnam.

“Every time we turned around we was getting hit with RPG rounds, with motor rounds,” said Venable. “It was very scary and very frightening.”

When he returned to the U.S. in 1971, he brought back hearing loss, injuries to his knees, back and legs, and post traumatic stress syndrome.

“I’ve talked to a lot of the returning soldiers and I tell them, if you have a problem, a mental health problem and you know you do, if not, you still go to the VA and get evaluated and get screened,” Venable said.

Venable tells me he could talk to people about his blood-stained nightmares, and get those gory memories out of his mind and war-time burdens off his chest, something this generation’s returning soldiers aren’t doing.

“Especially some of the people from Iraq and Afghanistan, who’s been over there four or five tours,” Venable said. “They need help. A lot of them really do.”

Since January, there have been four suspected suicides at Ft. Bliss, 26 suspected suicides in July and 116 across the nation. Veterans Affairs estimates 18 veterans commit suicide everyday.

“I know you’ve been a leader on this at Fort Bliss to help a comrade who’s hurting.,” President Barack Obama said while speaking to soldiers at Fort Bliss. “So today we’re taking another step. I’ve signed a new executive order to give our troops, our veterans, better access to mental health care.”

Venable says providing these soldiers help is more than just a campaign tactic. He commends President Obama for trying to improve mental health care for active and retired service members.

“I think its really outstanding that he did that. Our veterans need a lot of help, they really do,” Venable said.

Chief Officer Venable supports the president’s order to expand mental health and addiction programs for service members. But, Venable says that won’t solve the problem. The next step is for soldiers to take advantage of those programs and admit they need help.

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