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Memorial Day remembrances and ways to help military (and other) survivors


The annual Memorial Day weekend is almost here. The three-day holiday, officially celebrated the last Monday in May, unofficially marks the beginning of summer.

Millions of Americans, restive after years of COVID-19 precautions limited their travel and festivities, are heading out today.

But the name of the holiday underscores what it's really about. Memorial Day is to honor military service men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice. The United States total military war deaths are nearly 1.4 million.

The National Moment of Remembrance Act was enacted in December 2000, creating the White House Commission on the National Moment of Remembrance. The Commission's charter is to "encourage the people of the United States to give something back to their country, which provides them so much freedom and opportunity" by promoting and coordinating commemorations across the United States on Memorial Day.

Whatever you're doing on May 30, take at least a moment to recognize and honor the millions of service personnel who made the ultimate sacrifice.

Losses outside combat: Members of the military accept the danger inherent in their decision to serve their country. But there are other threats associated with service.

The U.S. military casualty tally is approaching 3 million. This disturbingly larger number includes, in part, the fatal effects of military service on members beyond combat, including suicide.

That's one of the reasons the Veterans Administration (VA) this year launched a new initiative, Mission Daybreak. The goal of this $20 million innovation challenge is ending veteran suicides.

Between 2018 to 2019, the number of veteran deaths by suicide has dropped a bit, following a longstanding rise. A Rand Corporation analysis found that from 2006 to 2018, the suicide rate, adjusted for age and sex, was 43 percent higher among veterans than nonveterans.

Mission Daybreak is an extension of the strategy adopted last year by the White House to reduce military and veteran suicide deaths. The strategy includes programs intended to reduce access to lethal means, enhancing crisis care programs, reducing barriers to quality mental health care and developing preventive programs to decrease risks of self-harm.

"We are looking for partners among academicians, among corporations, among technologists, among mental health care professionals, to see what are the new innovations in the provision of mental health care that will allow us to, at scale, reduce [the suicide] number," said VA Secretary Denis McDonough of Mission Daybreak's goal.

Ask for Help

   Suicide is a major public health issue and among the top ten causes of death in the United States.

   Unfortunately, for more than a decade, the suicide rate has been rising in the general U.S. population and especially among veterans, men and women who risked their lives for the country.

   If you or a loved one is struggling, help is available. Please call the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255, or text HOME to 741741 for support from the Crisis Text Line.

   If you are a veteran, contact the Veterans Crisis Line for confidential 24/7 support. Call toll-free (800) 273-8255 and press 1, or text 838255, or chat online.

More Memorial Day 2022 tragedy:
Veterans who die by suicide are more likely to use a firearm than civilians who die by suicide.

But this Memorial Day is especially tragic because of the loss of 21 lives in Uvalde this week. The 19 elementary school students and two teachers, where massacred by a young man wielding a military-style weapon, the AR-15 semiautomatic assault rifle, which has become a recurring method of mass murder.

I agree with my fellow Austin resident Amanda Quraishi that these souls also should be remembered this Memorial Day.



Helping where and how you can: If you can help out veterans or groups that support families enduring tragedies like those in Buffalo and Uvalde, thank you.

Some suggested ways to help out in the upstate New York tragedy are found in this Fast Company article. This Texas Tribune piece has information on helping the folks in Uvalde.

Volunteers are always welcome at suicide prevention hotlines. You can find a National Suicide Prevention Lifeline crisis center near you at the organization's website. That's the group's 800 phone number listed in the box above if instead of being able to help others, you need help yourself. A few minutes on an online search engine will provide you with other care and volunteer options.

And since Memorial Day is about service personnel sacrifices, and this is a tax blog, I also want to refer you to some of my earlier posts on this holiday. Several include charitable services and tax benefits for veterans and current military members and their families.










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