On Wednesday, November 17, the National Security Subcommittee of the House Oversight and Reform Committee held a hearing titled “Invisible Wounds: Preventing Suicide in Our Nation’s Military and Veteran Communities” to examine how the Department of Defense , Department of Veterans Affairs, and community organizations, like Boot Campaign, are working to strengthen mental health and curb the alarming rate of suicides among our nation’s military servicemembers and veterans. 

Board Member and U.S. Marine Corps Veteran Johnny Joey Jones represented Boot Campaign to share his personal experiences from his years of service, the devastating loss of fellow servicemembers and friends to suicide and to share how Boot Campaign is supporting veterans with invisible wounds. 

Joey told of  his best friend Marine Sgt. Christopher McDonald saying,“Chris was four years removed from a combat deployment, where he suffered both physical and mental injuries. He was prescribed … hydrocodone for a hip injury he suffered in Iraq in 2008, but received no treatment for his mental trauma.” Joey went on to explain how Chris became addicted to opioids in the months before his suicide and later asked for help from his family and friends. “Ultimately, he decided taking his own life was the only way to ensure he no longer hurt or let down those he loved,” Joey said. “We can’t stand by and allow those who serve to think this is the only option.”

As an organization, we are grateful to have a seat at the table for this important discussion, but having a conversation is only the first step in the right direction. Taking action must now be the priority. 

“Every veteran and the treatment and therapies they need are vastly different.  These men and women deserve the best care possible.. Until they are cared for individually and given the personalized time and attention they deserve, we at Boot Campaign will continue to provide individualized care so that suicide doesn’t seem like the only option,” said Shelly Kirkland, CEO at Boot Campaign. 

To read more about the discussion, visit the Military Times article recap here or watch the full hearing below.