Veteran, World War Two Memorial
A veteran sits on a bench at the World War II Memorial in quiet reflection in Washington, DC. Photo credit: © Jamie Rose/TNS via ZUMA Press Wire

You can’t erase the trauma and grief many veterans experience, but simply having a conversation with them can make a real difference.

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There are many things that Americans like to do on Memorial Day. Most of them are fun, such as traveling, cookouts, or attending sporting events. Others, like visiting a cemetery to pay respects to a loved one lost in war, are more somber. However, there is one more thing you should consider doing on this day: Reaching out to veterans. You might just save their life.

Almost 20 years of constant war means that there is a huge number of current and former soldiers who have seen “action.”

And, while many battle scars have left a mark, others are hidden. But that doesn’t make them any less dangerous.

In fact, veterans are 1.5 times more likely to die from suicide than other adults.

That has many reasons, such as exposure to trauma, loneliness, familiarity with guns, and trouble reintegrating into “normal life.”

Maybe you can’t do anything about that trauma, but simply having a conversation with them can make a real difference by helping them overcome loneliness or easing their reintegration into “regular” society.

As this flyer from the Department of Veterans Affairs points out, “You don’t have to be an expert to ask if someone is going through a difficult time or having thoughts of suicide.”

And, it makes sense that veterans might be having those feelings on a day like Memorial Day when they are constantly reminded of the friends and comrades they lost.

In that case, a simple conversation might make all the difference, especially if you notice changes in their behavior.

If you do, keep in mind that they have many resources available. Obviously, if you believe they pose an imminent danger to themselves or others, call 911.

However, there is also a dedicated crisis line for veterans. That number is 1-800-273-8255, and responders are available 24/7. You don’t have to be a veteran to call; you just have to care about one.

Here are some other resources:

Online chats:

You can find additional suicide prevention resources at

There is one more thing you should keep in mind: The veterans you know didn’t start the wars they were ordered to fight in. So it doesn’t really matter how you feel about those conflicts. It only matters how you feel about your family member, friend, colleague, teammate, neighbor, or acquaintance.

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