Protecting Our Protectors: Caring for Our Veterans

By Mayor Tommy Battle

Paying tribute to our military veterans is something we do with honor in Huntsville. From supporting events like the annual Veterans Day Parade to visiting the U.S. Veterans Memorial Museum, the Rocket City is very proud of all of those who selflessly serve our nation.

Recognizing our veterans for their service is something I take very seriously. Of course, our veterans are still serving today in our communities. At this time, there are nearly 300 veteran-owned businesses in Huntsville/Madison County and we are thrilled to have them.

Veterans need to be supported as they make the transition from service member to civilian. Challenges often include finding meaningful work and establishing themselves and their families in a new community. For some, there is the additional burden of recovering from physical and psychological injuries associated with their service. These are new battles and ones they may not be prepared to fight. They are ones that can sometimes lead them down a troubling path.

Unfortunately, nearly one in five suicides in the state of Alabama involves a veteran. Data show those with traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) are twice as likely to consider suicide as those without a TBI.

“Every war has a signature injury or wound,” said retired Army Maj. Gen. Paulette Risher. “A TBI is the one tied to those returning from wars in the Middle East.”

Risher, a former military officer, is the President and CEO of Still Serving Veterans and acts as Chair of the Alabama Task Force on Veterans’ Suicide.

“Symptoms of TBIs may not appear until years beyond a veteran’s service,” she added. “Headaches, memory loss, depression and other signs are some of what specialists keep an eye out for during an exam. But these are things family, friends and co-workers can watch for as well.”

So, when we pause to reflect on what these American heroes did for each one of us this Veterans Day, let’s also remember that even the bravest service member can use a little help from time to time.

If you or a veteran you know needs help, please call the Veterans Crisis Line at 800-273-8255 or text 838255. You can also chat with someone online at VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat.

It’s with a grateful heart that I say thank you to all who have served our great nation.

Happy Veterans Day, Huntsville!

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