The first Iraq war combat veteran to serve in the U.S. Senate introduced legislation on Thursday aimed at reducing the number of military veterans who commit suicide.
No matter the cost of the measures urged in the sweeping bill, “that is the cost of war,” Democratic Sen. John Walsh of Montana told CNN.
Every day, 22 veterans commit suicide.
To Walsh, that is more than a number. From 2004 to 2005, he commanded an infantry battalion of the Montana National Guard in Iraq. When the unit returned home, one of Walsh’s soldiers committed suicide.
When Walsh became adjutant general of the Montana National Guard, a few more guardsmen died by suicide.
“Far too often, we’re leaving our veterans to fight their toughest battles alone,” Walsh said. “Returning home from combat does not erase what happened there, and yet red tape and government dysfunction have blocked access to the care that saves lives. It is our duty to come together for real solutions for our heroes,” Walsh told CNN on Thursday.
The Suicide Prevention for America’s Veterans Act is collaboration between Walsh and the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. Founded in 2004, IAVA is the first and largest organization for new veterans and their families, with 270,000 members nationwide.
The next step for Walsh is to get a co-sponsor for the bill. He said he’s already received bipartisan support behind the scenes.
The veterans organization is working on getting a similar bill in the House, said IAVA political director Kate O’Gorman.
SOURCE: Ashley Fantz