Roseville, Calif. – America needs to stop its bumper-sticker activism and do something concrete to halt the alarming number of suicides among veterans, a New York Times bestselling author said Friday night.
“Every day in this country 18 veterans commit suicide,” said Luis Carlos Montalvan, a retired U.S. Army captain who penned the book Until Tuesday, speaking before about 70 supporters of The Soldiers Project-Sacramento.
Montalvan’s figures come straight from the Department of Veterans of Affairs, which admitted last year that there are an average of 950 suicide attempts made monthly by veterans who are receiving some type of treatment from the VA. Seven percent of the attempts are successful, a number that means veterans now represent 20 percent of the nation’s estimated 30,000 suicides annually.
“We are going through a war in this country and it’s not in Iraq or Afghanistan,” said Montalvan, who traveled to Roseville from his home in New York City. “I don’t know what’s wrong with our generals, our leaders, our citizens, but that statistic alone (18 suicides daily) should be on the front pages of every newspaper.”
Montalvan, who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury as a result of his service in Iraq, emphasized that there are far more soldiers coming home today with PTSD and TBI than with amputated limbs.
The U.S. has deployed 2.2 million soldiers since the war in Iraq began in 2003 “and I have news for you. Less than 1,900 have sustained amputation. That means that those 18 veterans who are killing themselves are not doing it because of amputation, but because of this,” he said, pointing toward his head.
Montalvan, who credits his service dog Tuesday with helping him cope with the effects of PTSD and TBI, made his comments at a private home in Roseville. He signed copies of his book to raise funds for The Soldiers Project-Sacramento, a 501(c)3 charitable organization which provides free confidential psychological treatment for active-duty military and veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as their family members and loved ones.
The author urged his audience to show their support for veterans with more than just a handshake and a thank you for the veteran’s service.
“I would ask you to take that a step further. Offer him your friendship.” He also suggested that letters – not e-mails — written to the White House, the VA, the Department of Defense can have great impact. “So few people write letters today, they can be very effective,” he said.
Until Tuesday, Montalvan’s story of how his service dog brought him back from the brink of suicide, will soon be made into a major motion picture, the author said. And Tuesday will play himself.
“He’s been working since he was 3 days old, so he’s got an advantage,” Montalvan said of his constant companion.
For more information about The Soldiers Project-Sacramento and its programs, call 877-557-5888.
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