28 April 2016

Our Testimony Supporting Senate 16-147 (April 28, 2016)

Statement of Wes Carter, Major USAF Retired
National Chairperson, The C-123 Veterans Association
also speaking for the united veterans committee of colorado

Mr. Chairman, and members of the committee,

I’m Wes Carter, National Chairperson of the C-123 Veterans Association. Today I also represent 450,000 Colorado veterans whose voice is the United Veterans Committee. Before you today is the terrible issue of suicide in Colorado and our hope that Senate Bill 16-147 can help.

I want to share some personal experiences with this issue. My town of Fort Collins lost thirteen children last year. Four were suicides. Four…over 30% if you want simple statistics. We don’t know all the causes, but we certainly know the tragedies our families were left with.

Military suicides are something I became familiar with 26 years service in the Army and then the Air Force. For twelve years I was a hospital administrator. Marvin, one of the officers who nominated me for my commission, faced demons he felt could only be driven away by ending his life. I flew medevac for several years with Diane, a flight nurse. I have a happy memory of her rushing from work to attend my wedding, without time to change from her hospital scrubs. I have been to her parent’s Massachusetts home only twice…each time for the funeral of one of her brothers, both of whom ended their lives while on active duty.

Military and veterans’ suicides. I can speak for the accumulation of life’s burdens in the military…extremely difficult technical and physical training, frequent deployments, injuries, career disappointments, loss of friends, family strife, relocations, financial stress. And then there’s all those people bombing and shooting at you. Life’s tough. We have an evolving understanding that it takes a warrior to call in help. I wish more warriors would reach out, but we see an average of one veteran’s suicide per hour, each and every day. 8000 a year, almost an Army division. Last year in our county, the 80 adults who ended their lives were 3.8% of all adult deaths, but remember what I said about the children…30% of all children’s deaths were by their own hand.

Senate Bills won’t solve everything but, along with recent action in the US Senate, they’ll help. I join Colorado’s 450,000 veterans in urging unanimous approval of Senate Bill 16-147. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

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