The American Legion is using its sponsorship of Chip Ganassi Racing’s Honda # 48 over Memorial Day weekend to discuss the most critical problem veterans face today – veteran suicide. During a press conference at Indianapolis Motor Speedway ahead of National Poppy Day, the organization announced a mission focus to harness the full power of the American Legion to find solutions to end the suicide of veterans.
The organization urges Americans to honor the fallen on Remembrance Day and support the living by joining the race to end the suicide of veterans. Despite best efforts, suicide among the US adult population continues to rise, and veteran suicide is not a new issue. The American Legion is concerned that current Department of Veterans Affairs data is two years behind current conditions and does not include numbers from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Mental health experts have warned that COVID-19 could significantly increase the rate of mental distress and self-harm among veterans.
“It’s just not enough to say ‘we remember’ and ‘thank you for your service’,” said Micheal P. Barrett, a member of the American Legion and 17th sergeant major in the United States Marine Corps. “The best way to honor those who gave their lives in this land is to support and protect those who served by their side. I am speaking of the men and women who have seen their boyfriend take his last breath in combat or experience one of the other horrors of war that they will now have to live with for the rest of their lives. I am here today to ask – no, I implore you – to honor the veterans of our nation by doing everything with us to end the suicide of veterans. “
During the press conference, the organization released a new commercial starring racing legend Jimmie Johnson, which indicated that more than 20 veterans die from suicide every day. While awareness is important, the American Legion’s focus will be on making change on Capitol Hill, offering programs and training across the country to strengthen peer support networks, capitalize on the national footprint, and invest in transformative research that delivers measurable results. The organization plans to work with others who share the American Legion’s urgency to bring about change.
“Since the day we were founded after World War I, the American Legion has been responsible for resolving the major problems faced by our nation’s veterans,” said American Legion National Commander James W. “Bill” Oxford. “First, the Veterans Bureau was established, now known as the Department of Veterans Affairs. Then it was by writing the GI calculation. We studied and fought for disability relief for veterans struggling with post-traumatic stress and conditions related to Agent Orange exposure, and more. Our mission and infrastructure allow us to fight veteran suicide on all fronts, and that is exactly what we want to do. “
– Chip Ganassi Racing (@CGRTeams) May 27, 2021
To kick off the campaign, Veterans United Home Loans presented the American Legion with a check for $ 2 million. The organization will use the funds to expand programs and opportunities for Legionaries, receive peer support training, and distribute critical mental health and wellness tools and resources through the American Legion’s infrastructure.
“We have to do something now,” said Barrett. “We need to show our nation’s veterans that there are welcoming spaces like the American Legion to find a sympathetic ear and helpful resources to get the support they need.”
Visit legion.org/48 to support the American Legion in their fight against veteran suicide. If you or a Veteran you know needs immediate help and assistance, call the Veterans Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255, press 1, or text 838255.