Help is here for local veterans
Published 7:00 am Thursday, September 21, 2023
Editor’s note: This article discusses suicide. If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, don’t hesitate to contact the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988 or 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
Veteran Parker Gordon Fox, who was a sniper instructor in the U.S. Army Infantry School at Ft. Benning, Georgia, was known for a life of generosity and kindness to others in need, and died by suicide on July 21, 2020, at the age of 25.
During September, Suicide Awareness Month, and all throughout the year a local group such as the Staff Sergeant Fox Suicide Prevention Grant Program (SSG Fox SPGP) honor the memory of individuals like Fox by serving veterans in need of encouragement and support services. For any local veteran needing assistance of any kind the SSG Fox SPGP is there to help.
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Gloria Owens, Butler County program coordinator for the SSG Fox SPGP, said the program is breaking down barriers in the local veteran community.
“We’re trying to identify mental health issues within the veteran community so that we can help prevent suicide ideation of any kind and create a safe place for them to be able to speak about anything they’ve encountered” Owens said. “We offer resources within the community that help veterans navigate things such as getting health care, initiating claims, and helping clear up a lot of false information out there that can confuse and hinder veterans. We’ve had a lot of success.”
Liza Berrey, Commander of the American Legion Post 24, said the program is a safe place for veterans to find solutions.
“Veterans are problem solvers, protectors and doers,” Berrey said. “When a veteran returns home, the transition from that role is often emotionally traumatic. They do not want others to see this as a weakness and often hide it. This program lets veterans talk in a safe, non-judgmental place to help find solutions to their problems. This is a much needed program in rural communities.”
Owens explained many elderly veterans have problems navigating the healthcare system at the Veteran Affairs (VA) office, and need general assistance managing life’s challenges. The SSG Fox SPGP works to alleviate these stressors that often lead to mental health challenges and suicide.
According to Owens, people are often giving indicators of mental health struggles, but they are overlooked due to a lack of awareness.
“Take the time to look around, take it seriously and try to listen to people because often they are giving indicators,” Owens said. “Some veterans have experienced things that you couldn’t even imagine, myself included. We paid a cost, and there’s no way for others to outwardly see that.”
There is a large homeless community in Greenville that is not commonly recognized, Owens said, and the SSG Fox SPGP is addressing these issues with the American Legion in Greenville to find solutions.
“We have veterans that walk around in our community pushing a cart and you don’t know why they are the way they are or what their story is,” Owens said. “Perhaps take the time to just smile at them, wave or, if you have time, speak with them. We found out through this group that there are a lot of hurting people in our community that really need support.”
Every Wednesday, a free event is held for local veterans and their families to enjoy lunch, camaraderie with fellow veterans and mental and emotional support. The meeting takes place at Beeland Park’s main building from 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. For more information call 334-368-0540 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This Saturday there will be a free veterans breakfast 7:30 a.m. – 8:30 a.m. at the American Legion at 100 American Legion Road in Greenville.
The “Celebrate being a Veteran” event is scheduled for Sept. 30 at the Library Pavilion in Greenville from 10:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. Veterans are encouraged to bring memorabilia and patches to share stories, and possibly win prizes. Lunch will be provided. The pavilion is located at 309 Fort Dale Road.
Another veteran community engagement opportunity will be Oct. 5 at 6:00 p.m. at the Beeland Park main building. All Butler County veterans are welcome. Dinner will be provided. Guests must register by Sept. 29, to register call 334-382-5111.