Thursday, August 29, 2013

In Their Shoes: An Experiential Training on Military Culture and the Military Child

By Katie Tame, MS and Vicki Lane, MSW, LCSWA
(Hope For The Warriors® Staff Members)

Camp Hometown Heroes has made it their mission to embrace the children of the fallen. The inaugural launch of Camp Hometown Heroes was June 22, 2013 and more than 60 children (ages 7-17) of fallen U.S service members arrived at YMCA Camp Matawa in Campbellsport, Wisconsin. The camp affords these children the traditional camp experience emphasizing friendship and fun, but also incorporates personal growth and healing. While traditional camp activities such as campfires, horseback riding, swimming and team sports are offered, the camp also arranges for pediatric grief counselors from Kyle’s Korner to provide counseling, group support and art therapy.  

Camp Hometown Heroes Co-Founder, Neil Willenson, reached out to Hope For The Warriors® with a request: to deliver on-site training in military cultural competency and the unique experiences and needs of the military child to the more than forty YMCA camp counselors staff from Kyle’s Korner.
Hope For The Warriors® was honored to partner with this nonprofit organization and develop a specialized training for the YMCA camp staff who dedicated themselves to providing a fun, memorable, and therapeutic experience for these military children who have sacrificed so much and endured great loss.


Did you know that only 1% of the American population serves in the military? As a result, a 2012 survey indicates that 41% of military families felt that their community did not embrace opportunities to help the military child (source). With 70% of military families living in civilian communities and not on military installations (source ), most of us have, or will, professionally or personally encounter a member of the military.
Many civilian professionals who work with veterans, active duty service members, and military families are encouraged, and in some cases even required, to participate in military cultural competency training. Even service members are provided with cultural competency training so that they can quickly adapt, communicate and honor the culture and traditions of foreign communities they are working within.
Clinicians, advocates, educators, co-workers, friends, and family members alike, who are committed to the welfare of our military families, quickly recognize the value and benefits of increasing their knowledge of military culture. The overarching goal is to effectively communicate, engage, understand and successfully interact with the individual. Here are some examples:

v  Patient-to-client rapport can be fostered, and as a result, clinicians can provide better tools, resources and effective treatment options

v  Greater understanding of the unique experiences of military families by being able to place them in a larger context and realize that military service is not merely a job, but a way of life

v  Shared vocabulary contributes to effective and efficient communication and interactions, which in turn minimizes the need to explain military terminology and acronyms

v  Cultivate empathy and implement supportive measures

v  Recognize the unique stressors and/or challenges that military members, spouses and children face as opposed to their civilian peers

v  Deepen appreciation for service and sacrifice through awareness

v  Establish and inspire community support for healthy reintegration

In Their Shoes
While each Hope For The Warriors® Military Cultural Competency training program can be tailored to fit an organization’s purpose or objectives, the course generally presents a basic understanding of the values, structure, policies and expectations of the military. Featured information includes, demographics and statistics, the military branches of service along with their missions and core values, rank and structure, active versus reserve status components, military terminology and acronyms, traditions and processes, and the many individual and family sacrifices that come with military service (deployment, injuries, suicide, death).

The training designed for Camp Hometown Heroes placed a special emphasis on the military child, their unique experiences, and how practitioners are approaching clinical work with grieving military children with trauma-focused care in mind.
It is our belief that profound and impactful learning occurs when the individual is an active participant in the process. Therefore, the training was developed and conducted through an experiential framework in an effort to avoid merely imparting information, but instead, to engage the participants. This was achieved by utilizing a wide array of original creative activities and integrating a variety of learning and teaching styles.  

We had great fun crafting an environment modeled after the military branches and culture. This was the first step in placing the group members “in the shoes” of military personnel. This replication included dividing the group members into a branch of service and assigning them with a rank. They were responsible for not only becoming experts on their respective military branch, but learned very quickly that there are very specific responsibilities and duties assigned to each rank and that hierarchical order is essential to the successful functioning of such a large scale organization.
We then  put them “in the shoes” of the military child.  We asked them to imagine not seeing their mothers, fathers, uncles, brothers or sisters for months or even years at a time, especially during crucial developmental years; and we disrupted them by relocating them around the room throughout the training, which exemplified the inconvenience that most military children feel due to moving on average at least 9 times by the time they are 18. Personal stories were threaded throughout the training as a means to not only authenticate the content, but to also create a deeper emotional connection. We were very privileged to interview a former Military Child of the Year, Nicole Goetz (USAF), and shared her insight, experiences, challenges, and rewards growing up as a military child.

One of Nicole’s particularly insightful remarks was in reference to how her family spoke about deployments and the inherent risks that come with military service:

“Before my father’s first deployment to the Middle East, he sat my 7 year old brother and 14 year old self down and asked us who would we want to be our guardian in the event something were to happen to him while he was overseas. 

My brother and I matured a lot that day. We stayed calm when discussing these matters with my parents because that was the best thing we could do.  Our job as kids is to be strong and supportive for our parents. We could not change the course of events that were about to take place, but we could have a mature attitude and hope and pray for the best. 

This and the other questions that followed were not ones a child should have to answer, but unfortunately, these risks and consequences are something military families must face.”

For civilian children this conversation is relatively foreign, but for the nearly 2 million military children, difficult conversations such as this and the subsequent challenging realities are commonplace. They face orders to move, deployments, integrating into new schools (to name a few) but they meet these encounters with pride, maturity and resiliency.
There are many valuable online training resources available including the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (source), Essential Learning (source), Center For Deployment Psychology (source).

If your group is interested in specialized on-site Military Cultural Competency training please contact Hope For The Warriors®. Please review the testimonials below.

“We really enjoyed our time with Vicki and Katie!  They presented the Military Cultural Competency training with tons of energy and passion.  We were all very engaged for the whole time and learned a ton.  The training really helped all of us non-military folks have a sneak peek into the unique challenges and needs of military families and children.  Vicki and Katie truly helped us prepare to serve this amazing group of kids at Camp Hometown Heroes. Thanks so much for all the work you both do for these amazing families!

–Wendy Mieske, Camp Operations Director, YMCA of Metropolitan Milwaukee-Camp Matawa

“Thank you to you and Vicki for everything you contributed to Camp Hometown Heroes…the week would not have been as complete without you.  I know all of us, counselors especially, gained valuable knowledge from you in how to respond to our campers.  Many of their parents have expressed gratitude for the changes they see in their children since they returned home.  Finally many of them are facing what they couldn't face before and are more able to move forward with their lives.  They gained a valuable perspective, not to mention many news friends and bonds with camp.  I think they'd come back tomorrow.  Thank you so much for your wonderful presence. “

-Debbie Paschke, Director, Camp Hometown Heroes

Below are some recommended websites that will help you become more aware of the issues that military children face and the resources available to them.

Military KIDS Connect

Our Military Kids

Sesame Workshop

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Two For One--Join Us for Two Races in NJ

We have TWO great races coming up in New Jersey in September. On Sunday, September 15, we have the 3rd Annual Harmon Meadow Run For The Warriors® (Secaucus, NJ) and then one week later, we will host the New Jersey Auto Retailers Run For The Warriors® (Holmdel, NJ) on September 22. 

Now through the end of the Labor Day Weekend, we have a special deal!  Register for both races for the price of one. That's $30 for two 5K races! (Use discount code:  R4WNJ2)

Why Run?

Both races will honor those who have served and sacrificed for our freedoms. We will also honor and support families of the fallen.  The Harmon Meadow Run For The Warriors® is being held in memory of SPC Rafael Nieves, Jr., USA.  However, all service members and military families will be honored.

The New Jersey Auto Retailers Run For The Warriors® race will be held at the New Jersey Vietnam Veterans' Memorial--a beautiful and meaningful location.

We hope that each of you in the area can attend one or both of the runs and join us in honoring our military.

Not in New Jersey?  Find a Run For The Warriors® in your area or join Team Hope For The Warriors® and add inspiration and meaning to any athletic event.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Core Challengers: Meet Christine

Have you read about the Do More With Your Core Challenge?

Meet another one of our challengers.

Name:  Christine

From:  New Jersey

Background:  Christine and her husband Bill raised three children and were a close family.  Their son, Steven, was killed in action on March 3, 2008 in Afghanistan.  Two years later, their daughter Lynne died from suicide.  The Koch family have been an active Gold Star family, dedicated to remembering both of their children and supporting wounded service members and military families.

"I am doing this Core Challenge because it helps me take the pain from heart, even if it's just for a short time. I will do just about anything Tina (Hope For The Warriors staff member) asks of me. I truly do not believe I would be here if I had not met Tina. I really mean that. I believe in these causes.  The war might be winding down, but our soldeirs will suffer for the rest of their lives."

Donate to her Core Challenge Page Today!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

How to Find Companies Committed to Hiring Veterans

Introducing Rachael McDermott, a career coach at Harvard University Graduate School of Education.  She volunteers through Hope For The Warriors® and will be hosting a webinar next Tuesday titled Navigating LinkedIn.
Today she highlights ways to find companies that are hiring veterans.
Many companies have committed to hiring veterans - at least they say they will.  I’m sure effectiveness of these programs varies but veterans could take advantage of this goodwill by seriously considering these companies as potential employers.  How can you find these companies? has a Veteran Jobs section with a listing of military friendly employers.

GI Jobs Magazine features a listing of top 100 military friendly companies.
Check out the 100,000 Jobs Mission, a coalition of top employers committed to hiring 100,000 veterans by 2020.

Simply google “corporate military recruiting program” or “corporate veteran recruiting program” to see what else comes up. 
Join the website LinkedIn to access groups devoted to transitioning military or veterans.  Recruiters at companies that want to hire military often post job openings in the groups and you can connect with them and send them messages through the site.

Similarly, the Hero2Hired site features industry groups where veterans and employers can interact and recruiters post jobs.
Check out as many veteran career fairs as possible.  Get connected with veteran service organizations like Hope For The Warriors® as many have employment programs and connections with employers wanting to hire veterans.  Here in Massachusetts, there are career centers statewide each with a veteran’s representative to work with you.  Sometimes employers connect with these reps to conduct recruiting/hiring events with the veterans the rep is working with.  The VA vocational rehab folks are another similar resource. 

If you are in the Guard or Reserves, your state’s branch of ESGR (Employer Support of the Guard and Reserves) may be able to connect you to employers in touch with their offices to hire from the Guard and Reserves.  Find your state’s contact here.  Our Mass ESGR office has an email list featuring job postings and career fairs and sometimes organizes events with employers to meet service members.

For tips on how to research these companies further and contact them, please attend my webinar on using the website LinkedIn for job searching on Tuesday, August 20th at 5:30 pm EST.  You'll need good internet connection and a way to listen - either with a headset or computer speakers.  Contact Katie Tame at for more information or to sign up for the webinar.

For more job searching advice and resources, please follow my blog:


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Core Challengers: Meet Amy F.

Have you read about the Do More With Your Core Challenge?

Meet another one of our challengers!

Name:  Amy F.

From:  Upstate New York

Background:  Amy was introduced to Hope For The Warriors® through the "Salute to Freedom" event, hosted by the Cortlandt Yacht Club in Montrose, NY.  After that event, she ran a race for the organization, raising more than $1,000. 

“I was touched by the wounded vets [I have met in the] past couple years. As an American, I am proud to support Hope For The Warriors.”

Navigating LinkedIn

Hope For The Warriors® invites all service members, veterans and their spouses to attend the first webinar in our new Professional Development Series.  R.S.V.P to Katie Tame.

Download or Share Flyer

Core Challengers: Meet Amy and Steve

Have you read about the Do More With Your Core Challenge

Meet two more of our challengers!

Names:  Amy and Steve D.

From:  Long Island, NY

Background:  Amy graduated from Villanova University with a degree in Chemical Engineering.  Her husband Steve graduated from SUNY Maritime ’92 and received his commission in the US Merchant Marine. The two married in 1997 and have two teenage kids.  Steve started competing in Obstacle Racing (OCR) events and Amy decided she better join him so that they could more time together.  So far this year, the couple has completed 10 OCR events and several Go Ruck challenges.

Why Amy and Steve joined the Challenge:

In May of this year, Amy and Steve did a GORUCK Challenge in Long Beach Long Island and were included on a team full of Hope For The Warriors® employees and volunteers.

"They are such a great group of people and such a great organization that we feel we should help. We are always exercising and working out and doing personal monthly challenges, so when the “Do More with Your Core Challenge” came up, we knew we had to do this."
Thank you to Amy and Steve for joining the challenge!
Donate to their Core Challenge Page today!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Above & Beyond Program: A Success Story

Today's blog is written by Blaz, a veteran and a Marine who has both benefited from, and volunteered to support, Hope For The Warriors® programs.  By sharing his story, we hope that others reach out for help, and to help.
“Shortly after Operation Desert Shield/Storm, I started to have many symptoms that affected my health.  Many I just ignored like the asthma, extreme headaches, feeling dizzy and always feeling nauseated. But eventually, my wife Theresa started noticing gashes on my face, caused from my falling down.  Theresa knew this was not normal so off to the doctors we went.”
“After many MRI’s and numerous visits to the doctors, it was discovered that there were masses growing on my brain.  The decision was made that I would undergo brain surgery to remove the mass.  However, the neurosurgeon only drained the mass.  The mass was pressing on my pituitary which was causing me to lose my balance and fall over.  Within a few months the mass came back even bigger and that is when my health started to go downhill from there.” 
“I was transferred to the Wounded Warrior Battalion East in early 2007 since I could no longer function within an infantry unit.  My Traumatic Brain Injury was finally catching up to me after all these years since the blast.  The only thing left for me to do was to be medically retired from the Marine Corps, something that I have never planned on.  In 2007, the Wounded Warrior Battalion was introduced to an organization called Hope For The Warriors®.  This was a new nonprofit establishment to help the wounded warriors and their families.  Hope For The Warriors® was there for my family and me until my retirement in December 2008.”

“When I retired, I hit rock bottom.  I drank from the moment I got up and would not stop until the alcohol was gone or I passed out.  I would not shower or shave for weeks, wearing the same clothes night and day, in most cases my bathrobe.  I ate junk food all day and would not even leave the house.  My wife could see me slipping away from reality and there was nothing that she could do.  One day, my wife told me that I should go back to school.”

Theresa, Blaz's wife, caregiver, and greatest supporter
“This was a great idea since no one wanted to hire me without some sort of education.  But college really scared me since I did not do very well in high school.  So I started attending college on line and I made the Dean’s List.  This was a huge accomplishment for me since studying and reading is a challenge for someone who has a TBI.  I was trying to get my BA in Business Management and after four years and eleven times on the Dean’s List, I graduated with honors as Magnum Cum Laude by maintaining a GPA of 3.85.”
“The depression was still there and at this point I became more frustrated that no one wanted to hire me.  Hundreds of applications had been filled out online, in person and through the mail only to be told that I do not meet the requirements.  The drinking started up again too.”
“One day the phone range.  It was someone from Hope For The Warriors®, asking if I wanted to go to New York.  This put a smile on my face since they had done so much for all the wounded warriors and their families.  Not only was I going on a vacation to New York City, but I would once again be in charge of about a dozen wounded warriors.  Things started to look bright and the depression was slowly leaving my unhealthy body.”
Blaz presents at an Above & Beyond Seminar
“Hope For The Warriors® called upon me again, but this time it was to go through the Above & Beyond Program.  WOW, what an amazing program! The Above & Beyond Program taught me how to dress for an interview, how to put out a resume that no one could say no to.  It prepared me for job interviews and helped me build new contacts. Business owners would talk to us, telling us wounded warriors what they look for when it comes to hiring.  The people that I met were professionals, teachers, mentors, and I would like to also add friends.  Nessy, Connie Morinello, Chris Hansel and many others made the Above & Beyond Program such a huge success.”
“In March 2012, I was hired at NAVSEA.  Captain Eric Ver Hage gave me my start as a civilian government employee, something that I have wanted for more than 4 years.  I also started working towards my Masters in Public Administration and have kept on with the tradition of being on the Dean’s List.  This time I kept my GPA at a 4.0 and will be graduating as Suma Cum Laude.  Both degrees were a struggle; I would re-read things 5-10 times.  I would spend hours just trying to figure out what the teacher wanted.  My wife Theresa would see my frustration so she would ask me to read the question.  Then she would break it down so I would understand the question better.  Once she did this, off I went typing my huge papers.  There were many days I just didn’t feel well with all my health issues but I managed to complete my assignments.”

Volunteering with Hope For The Warriors

The day that Hope For The Warriors® came back into my life was the day my wife and I started to promote this great organization.  Anything that Hope For The Warriors® needed, my wife and I were there waiting to help.  You know that you have come full circle when you show up for an Above & Beyond Program as guest speakers and a lovely lady started to cry.  That would be Nessy--she had faith that I would finally make it.  Hope For The Warriors® and the Above & Beyond Program have truly saved my life.  If it was not for their beliefs, their guidance, their contacts, I am sure I would still be in the depths of hell, dealing with my depression.  I am also grateful to have such an amazing wife who never gave up on me.  I owe my wife everything and I guess this is what true friendship is all about.  My wife Theresa has been with me through all the doctors’ visits, all the surgeries, all the depression and anger; it is her motivation and dedication that gives truth to the meaning of Care Giver.”

Hope For The Warriors® has another Above & Beyond Seminar scheduled and we are looking for volunteers to support service members and veterans as they transition into a new civilian career. 
Volunteers are needed to help with writing resumes and conducting mock interview sessions for a group of transitioning Marines/Sailors from the Balboa Medical Ctr in San Diego.  September 25 from 8AM-4PM.  Contact Connie at for details.  Local volunteers only please.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Core Challenger: Meet Steve S.

Have you read about the Do More With Your Core Challenge?  Now meet some of the challengers!

Name:  Steve S.

From:  Long Island, New York

Background:  Steve joined the Army in 2003 as a combat military police officer and deployed to Afghanistan in 2004.  He suffered from some injuries but still deployed again in 2007, this time to Iraq.  He is a criminal justice major at Long Island University and also works for the Department of Veterans Affairs. 

Why Steve has joined the challenge

“I love to run, ride my road bike and participate in any other events that are fun and adventurous. The reason I love supporting this event is that it brings veterans and supporters from all over the US together to do one common thing and that is to do sit-ups. Another reason is that it keeps me active and doing something that I wouldn't normally do because of my injuries. It gets me motivated to become more and more active."
Steve was already an active member of Team Hope For The Warriors.  The photo above was taken at the Trislip Super Sprint Triathalon this summer.
Donate to Steve's Core Challenge Page today!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

How Strong is Your Core?

Throughout the month of August, close to 200 people have joined Team Hope For The Warriors® and the Do More With Your Core Challenge.  The challenge is simple--complete 250 sit ups everyday.

The challenge is led by Steve Bartomioli of Westchester County, NY.  "Barto" is an active member of our Team and in the Go Ruck Challenge.  He considers himself fortunate to have compete in events with other members of our staff and Team.  Above is a photo of him with two other Team members after a triathlon on Long Island.

The goal of his challenge is to encourage support to Hope For The Warriors® while helping people increase their physical activity.  The challenge has been a success! In the first seven days of August, participants from 27 different states have completed more than 283,500 sit ups.

But Hope For The Warriors® is all about supporting our service members and veterans and this core challenge is no different. Participants include service members and veterans that we assist.  And within the challenge, across the country, members encourage each other through the Facebook event created.

This core challenge has also demonstrated how strong the organization's core has become.  One of the challengers, a wounded veteran, posted one day that he was sick and could not complete his sit ups that day.  Quickly, another challenger accepted his sit ups.  That day, she completed 500 sit ups--250 of her own and 250 to support a fellow challenger. 

How strong is your core?  Our cores are getting stronger by the day!

Learn more about the Core Challenge or donate to one of the challengers.

Interested in the next challenge? Email the Team and let us know that you are interested in receiving Team news.

In the next few weeks, we will highlight core challengers.  Please come back to read about our great Team members!

Monday, August 5, 2013

A Sergeant in the House

Today's guest blogger is Betty Turnbull, author of the book A Sergeant In The House, a children's book that shares the heartwarming story of a boy's love for his father, a man serving in combat.  Proceeds from the book will benefit Hope For The Warriors®.  Thank you to Betty for sharing her thoughts and for choosing Hope For The Warriors® as the beneficiary for her hardwork.

The author with her son

In a time when we hear more and more about our service men and women and the battlefield injuries they sustain––be them psychological or physical––I felt called to write a story that would explain the sacrifices of our heroes in a way that children could connect to them. And I wanted to do it in a way that would give back to our nation’s warriors. So it was an easy decision to donate 100% of my author royalties to Hope For The Warriors ®.

A Sergeant In The House is the story of Lenny, a young boy whose father joins the military to serve his country. Lenny desperately wants a puppy. But the family must move frequently and Lenny is still very young to care for an animal. So Lenny strikes a bargain: When his daddy becomes a sergeant, Lenny can have a puppy. When his father is deployed to war, Lenny learns what it means to be responsible, to care for his family, and to help around the house. A dreaded phone call brings the news that Lenny's father has been injured and is being sent home. When Lenny's father explains that this means he'll never become a sergeant, Lenny realizes that what he truly wants is his daddy––puppy or no puppy.

I grew up in what I would call a very patriotic home. My dad was a veteran of WWII. He met my mom at Wright Patterson Field in Ohio, where she was working as a secretary to a general. I grew up proud of my country.

I spent most of my adult life outside the United States in Haiti, where my husband and I worked in education and rural development. Our three children were born and raised in Haiti.

During this time, I grew to appreciate the United States and the freedoms I grew up with even more. I remember how surprised I was when a Haitian friend insisted we talk in a whisper in the open yard. He was fearful that someone would hear him speak against the government and retaliate by hurting his family. No longer did I take the First Amendment for granted.

When our oldest son announced at age 12 that he wanted to attend the Air Force Academy, I wasn’t surprised since I knew he shared our patriotism and appreciation of the United States––plus I suspected something about cool airplanes had caught his attention. I was surprised, however, when at 13, 14, 15 and onward he held onto this dream. In 1991, he entered the Academy. Today he is a Lieutenant Colonel and currently deployed to Afghanistan.

Family Together
Because of his service, my great respect for our military has grown from cheering on the branches of the military as groups of people to realizing that these groups are made up of individuals. These individuals are sons and daughters, wives and husbands, and fathers and mothers. And my son, himself a husband and father, is just one of the thousands who puts himself in harm’s way to protect my freedoms. EVERY. DAY. And there are thousands of other mothers, fathers, spouses and children who wake up every day with a prayer on their lips for protection and go to sleep every night with a “thank you for another day.”

I’ve also learned firsthand, that when one member of the family serves, all members serve. With each move, spouses get the job of creating a home out of a house all over again and changing or giving up careers; children have to make new friends and adjust to new schools. Long hours and deployment leave spouses holding it all together. And it’s the family who steps up when a loved one returns, because too often our heroes return with physical and psychological injuries.

The ongoing battles that our warriors continue to fight are our ongoing battles. Organizations like Hope For The Warriors® make it possible for us to be a part. I’ve had a burden for years to find a way to pay tribute to our heroes and their heroic families. A Sergeant in the House is that tribute. My hope is that it will warm the hearts of those who read it and bring awareness of just how much families sacrifice for the rest of us. May we all start each day with a thank you for our freedoms and may we not take for granted the price paid to keep them.

I feel privileged to be partnering with Hope For The Warriors® by donating my royalties, and I invite you to join me in supporting our nation's heroes through this worthy organization.

Purchase the book today.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Suicide Prevention Training

Each year, Hope For The Warriors® staff members attend Suicide Prevention Training with a representative from the Department of Veterans Affairs.  The training is invaluable for the daily mission of an organization that works with wounded service members, their families, and families of the fallen.

The training is only one hour--not nearly long enough to cover all topics.  But the training helps the Hope For The Warriors® staff identify those who are at risk and gives us the language and tools needed to approach veterans and family members about this serious subject.  This blog posting only scratches the surface.  Please find more information at their site.  

It is imperative that we all have a better understanding of suicide prevention and crisis management.  Here are a few of the important statistics:

More than 36K U.S. deaths from suicide each year
20% of those that die from suicide are veterans
33% of veterans who die from suicide had previously attempted suicide
950 suicide attempts/month by veterans receiving VA healthcare services

Operation S.A.V.E.

S-Know the Signs
Learn the warning signs of someone who is considering suicide.  Some of the signs include:

  • Hopelessness
  • Anxiety, agitation, sleeplessness
  • Rage or Anger
  • Engaging in risky activities
  • Increase in alcohol or drug abuse
  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Talking about death, dying or suicide

A-Asking the Question
Although it might be difficult, if you believe that someone exhibits the warning signs, you need to calmly ask, "Are you thinking about killing yourself?"  It is important to be direct, calm, and nonjudgmental.  The goal is for the person to feel comfortable speaking with you.

Notice that you do not ask if they are thinking of hurting themselves or ask indirectly.  The more direct and calm you ask the question, the more likely they will be to answer honestly.

V-Validate their Experience
Be willing to listen and recognize their struggles. 

E-Encourage Treatment and Expedite Getting Help
Try to get the person immediate help.  If you are concerned for their safety, do not leave them.  Stay with them until they have gotten help.

Veterans Crisis Line
Learn the number, share with veterans and military families.  The Veterans Crisis Line number is 800.273.8255 (Press 1).  Or TEXT 838255.  This is open to all veterans and their families.  Anyone can call if they are concerned if a service member or veteran is considering suicide.  

Since its launch in 2007, the Veterans Crisis Line has answered more than 814,000 calls and has made more than 28,000 life saving rescues.

Besides information, the Veterans Crisis Line site provides materials for educating.  If you work with the veteran population, please visit the site and download the tools provided.

Our expert stressed one point especially--the VA cannot do this work alone.  It requires all of us to learn the signs and identify those that are at risk.