By Debbie Gregory.
It’s a staggering statistic that we’re all becoming aware of: an average of 22 veterans take their own lives each day. While some people debate that number from the Department of Veterans Affairs, any number of lives lost to suicide is unacceptable.
Recently, a coalition of nonprofits led a “Spartan Weekend” for sick and injured veterans, extracting a promise that if they were thinking about suicide, they would first reach out to someone for help.
The promise was made with their hands on a sword hammer-forged of steel salvaged from the remains of the World Trade Center. The symbolism of the sword is important because the 9/11 attacks motivated a lot of people to join the military.
The Spartan Pledge is a commitment among warfighters to stand with their fellow soldiers in times of despair. The pledge has proven to be an effective deterrent to a spiral of hopelessness and offers a mission of brotherhood and a promise for tomorrow
Steve Danyluk, a retired Marine lieutenant colonel and founder of the Independence Fund, helped organize the event for the Spartan Alliance and Disabled American Veterans.
“You don’t have to be suicidal to take the pledge,” he said. “It’s finding a mission: Help your buddy. It’s reconnecting, reestablishing those relationships that seem to vanish once you leave the military.”
Father Matt Pawlikowski, an Army chaplain from West Point, officiated a Mother’s Day service honoring Gold Star and Blue Star Mothers who have sons or daughters who are actively serving or have lost their lives in service. The ceremony closed with dozens of veterans taking an oath against suicide, known as the Spartan Pledge, a promise to reach out to their “Battle Buddy” before doing harm to themselves or others.
The pledge reads: “I will not take my own life by my own hand until I talk to my battle buddy first. My mission is to find a mission to help my warfighter family.”