Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., is taking the lead on a congressional effort that will save the lives of suicidal service members and veterans.
Cheney is a principal co-sponsor of a measure in Congress to create an annual “National Warrior Call Day,” introducing the legislation on June 30. “By establishing this day and encouraging Americans to reach out to those who have worn or are wearing the uniform, we can save lives and protect those who have done so much to protect us,” she said in a statement.
In a bipartisan fashion, Rep. Cheney is leading the push in the House with Rep. Elaine Luria, D-Va., a former Navy officer, as Cheney and her staff are casting for a like-minded lawmaker to take up the mantle in the Senate.
National Warrior Call Day, which if approved by Congress and signed into law by the president, would take place Nov. 21. It would draw much-needed attention to those service members and vets who may be perilously disconnected from teammates, family, friends and support systems.
Disconnection from others is proving fatal for veterans, with lawmakers reporting that two-thirds of vets who die by suicide have had no contact with services. They are battling alone. And as Rep. Cheney notes, it is up to us, every American, to try and re-connect them.
The day would mark a coast-to-coast call to action to connect with vets and service members. It asks that all Americans — especially active duty and retired military personnel — make a call to a warrior, with someone who has worn or is currently wearing the uniform and connect them with support, if necessary.
The effort is sorely needed in Wyoming which, according to the U.S Department of Veterans affairs, has a suicide rate among veterans that is “significantly higher” than the national general population suicide rate.
Nationally the trends are just as alarming. Among current service members, a total of 377 current duty service members died by suicide in 2020. That number is up from 348 in the prior year. Active-duty suicides have been steadily increasing since 2016 when there were 280.
For veterans, after adjusting for sex and age, veteran suicide was 27.5 per 100,000 individuals, up from 25.8 per 100,000 two years before. By comparison, among all U.S. adults, the suicide rate per 100,000 was much lower at 18.3. In a solemn metric that underscores the breadth of the tragedy, more than 6,000 veterans have died each year by suicide since 2008.
National Warrior Call Day is only one part of Rep. Cheney’s work on behalf of vets and service members. Following introduction of this bill, she also plans to push for other efforts in this year’s national defense spending bill to help arrest the tragic suicide trend.
To help make National Warrior Call Day a reality, you, too, can help in a meaningful way. Please consider signing our online petition to ramp up the pressure on Congress. It is ready to sign here: https://www.change.org/p/declare-nov-21-national-warrior-call-day
Desmond Tutu wisely observed that “ordinary acts of love and hope point to the extraordinary promise that every human life is of inestimable value.”
Here is an opportunity to do something so simple and ordinary by making a call that results in the extraordinary — in a human connection that tethers someone to hope where there was none before.
Larkin and Petry are co-chairs of the Warrior Call initiative. Larkin is a former Navy SEAL, 40th US Senate Sergeant at Arms and father of a Navy SEAL son who committed suicide. Petry is a 2011 recipient of the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military honor.