Editorial: Thank you veterans

November 12, 2011

Thank you, veterans.

Too seldom do we as a culture say that to the men and women who have served our country in the military.

One way is to attend the Veterans Day service at Anderson's Tribute Center, or The Dalles' "Past, Present and Future" parade, on Nov. 11. Both events start at 11 a.m. From our World War II veterans in their 80s or 90s, to the teenagers who today serve in the branches of the service, including National Guard, our nation should set aside its political viewpoints and give our veterans their due - on Nov. 11 and every other day of the year.

Oregon Partnership provides a sobering note upon this important federal holiday: Veterans account for a troubling 20 percent of our nation's suicides. This means that every day in the United States, an average of 18 veterans take their own lives - or about one every 80 minutes.

Twenty-seven percent of Oregon's suicides are veterans. From 2005 to 2010, active service members took their own lives at a rate of approximately one every 36 hours.

Suicide is preventable; a local effort is now starting to address the problem of suicide for people of all ages and circumstances.

An article on page A1 provides an example of suicide myth v. reality, courtesy of Oregon Youth Suicide Prevention website, www.dhs.state.or .

Here is another that could well encompass the troubling experiences of our veterans:

Myth: "The things that cause suicide happen so fast and are so powerful that no one can do anything to stop suicide."

Reality: A sudden, painful event may set off or hasten a decision to die by suicide, but it is unlikely to be the only cause. More typically, other contributing events and feelings have occurred over a prolonged period of time.

There are often a number of opportunities to do something helpful. We need to recognize the stressful events and the person's feelings about and reactions to them as invitation to get involved. Even when a very big loss happens suddenly, there is still much that can be done to prevent suicide. With help, human beings are capable of withstanding almost any kid of loss.

According to Oregon Partnership, post-traumatic stress may occur in those who experience or witness intense violence, serious accidents, or life-threatening events. Many veterans and active military balk at seeking help through traditional channels due to fear of negative career impact, the stigma of perceived weakness among their peers and frustration with red tape. Left untreated, the challenges can intensify as they feel more isolated.

"Often it's family and friends who see the conflict, but don't know how to help. We encourage them to call us day or night," said Josh Groesz, Iraq War veteran and director of the Military Helpline. "This is a tangible way to truly thank people for their military service."

The line is answered by a highly trained and dedicated team of volunteer crisis workers, many of whom have military backgrounds. All possess a strong understanding of the serious issues that can impact service members and their families, including the loss of a job, family strife, alcohol and drug abuse, home foreclosure, post-traumatic stress, suicidal thoughts and other medical and health care concerns.

Service members, military veterans and their family members struggling with thoughts of suicide, feelings they don't understand, pain they can't define and questions that need answers receive immediate free, anonymous assistance from Oregon Partnership's Military Helpline - 888- 457-4838 - or for a secure chat line:

www.MilitaryHelpline.org .

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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