Still Waters: Give them more than a parade

The American Legion in Alamosa needs a new roof. It is leaking again. This building has served as a community gathering place for many years. For example, for more than two decades it hosted the annual Christmas dinner.

It has hosted candidate forums before elections. It has hosted parties and funeral dinners. It has provided a place for veterans to gather and for the community to celebrate, mourn and be informed. It hosts regular bingo events, which for many people is their only entertainment and social interaction.

Its roof is leaking, and I don’t know if the Legion has the money to fix it.

To help, call American Legion Commander Donna Gates, 719-580-5083. Maybe wait until next week. She’s busy coordinating the Veterans Day parade this weekend.

* * * * * * *

Seventeen veterans commit suicide every day. On top of that, four active duty service members, guardsmen and reservists commit suicide every day.

This is information from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in its National Suicide Data Report released this summer.

The VA reported that veteran suicide rates are higher than the rest of the population, especially among women.

The suicide rate is also higher among people who do not receive VA care.

San Luis Valley resident Dean Terrell, whose story will be shared in a more detailed story, is one of those veterans who put a gun to his head. The only thing that stopped him was his dog started barking, and it disrupted him enough to stop.

He is also someone who is struggling to get the health care he needs, which is an all-too-common problem for veterans in rural areas like the San Luis Valley where there is no resident VA physician and the nearest VA hospital is hours away.

Moving to Colorado a year ago so he could have access to cannabis, he is making his own cannabis oils to treat himself.

Contact the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255, press 1; or text 838255; or visit

* * * * * * *

For obvious reasons, this is a hard number to come by, but the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development estimates that 40,056 veterans are homeless on any given night in America. The number of young homeless veterans is only about 9 percent of that total, but that number is increasing.

About 41 percent of the homeless veterans are between the ages of 31 and 50. Most are male.

America’s homeless veterans have served in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Grenada, the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan, Iraq and many other locations.

In addition to the homeless veterans, HUD estimates there are another 1.4 million veterans at risk of homelessness.

Veterans in crisis may also call 1-877-424-3838, day or night.

* * * * * *

Just from the recent deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, 20 percent of the returning veterans suffer from either major depression or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, according to the RAND Center for Military Health Policy Research. Many of those veterans have experienced a traumatic brain injury.

A Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration study indicated only half of returning veterans who need mental health treatment will receive it. It might be because they are too embarrassed or proud to seek it. It might be due to waiting lists or logistics, such as transportation and distance. It might be due to lack of information about where to go.

The National Veterans Foundation has a motto, “No one left behind.” Let’s hope that is true. Call 888-777-4443.

* * * * * *

So, pardon my language, but what the hell?

What is it going to take to get our veterans — the men and women who risked their lives to serve this country — the help they need, whether it is counseling, housing, medical care or a new roof over their meeting hall?

Maybe veterans would get more attention if they started a cross-country “caravan.”

Happy Veterans Day.

It’s time to do more than salute.