Buddy Check 22 is an emerging effort to get people to connect with veterans, particularly on the 22nd day of the month. The day is chosen because 22 veterans take their own lives each day.
That figure is a national estimate based on a Department of Veterans Affairs analysis of death records from 21 states. Though it is usually cited in the context of the recent wars, most of those suicides involved older veterans, who account for the vast majority of the nation's 22 million former service members.
Among veterans in the current study, there was one suicide a day.
The rates were highest during the first three years out of the military.
I'm more than three years out of the military. I was also blessed to serve only on peaceful actions, though my unit was active in Bosnia, Haiti, Somalia and other low-level unconventional activities.
But that service shaped me. And it shaped my thoughts on this subject. Soldiers (airmen, sailors, Marines) go through a kind of diaspora. They bond together tighter than any family, and then it is over. Even in this era of social media you cannot maintain connections with everyone. We drift apart, but when we do connect it all returns.
Today I will reconnect. John, Matt, Dan, Gian, Tim, Julian and Jeff will get phone calls. Matt, Chad, Leah, Jessica, Heidi, Warren, Michael, Andrea, Ben, Joe, Jason, Sheila, Rob, Shawn, Adrian, Julie, Doug, Matt, and Ryan will all get messages over Facebook.
Some of those conversations will last dozens of minutes. Others will be a single sentence reminding them of the times we shared.
I do not know if I'll make a difference today. But maybe they'll reach out to someone else. Maybe you'll reach out to a veteran, and just remind them that they are loved, needed and thanked.
Twenty-two million of us served. Every day twenty-two of those end their time on Earth by their own choice. Let's ruin the synchronicity of those numbers.