One suicide per day. That’s what the US military averaged in 2012. And some experts expect that number to be even higher this year. But help for service members is just a phone call away – from some Colorado veterans willing to listen.
They work at the Combat Call Center (877-WAR-VETS), a phone bank located in a non-descript office park in Lakewood.
A service of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the phone bank is manned 24 hours a day, 365 days a year by veterans who are willing to lend an ear.
Veterans like Eric Simpson. He had a lot of satisfaction serving as a leader in his unit when he served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“A big part of my job was making sure the soldiers have the care that they need,” Simpson told FOX31 Denver. “Part of my problem with readjusting (to civilian life) was that I didn't have that satisfaction, and now I get that here (at the Combat Call Center).
Since its inception back in 2009, the call center has fielded some 60,000 calls.
They get about 3,500 calls a month from soldiers near and far who need help. Some just want the number for a nearby VA hospital. Others just need to vent.
“There's a lot of times veterans don't think they have anyone to talk to or anybody to care about them. And we are here to show them that we are here to care about them,” said Tom McCabe, who oversees the call center.
And it's not just Iraq and Afghanistan vets calling in. McCabe remembers one veteran in particular.
“He was about a 90-year-old World War II vet, he lived in the northeast, saw our number, and called us. His family was far away from him… and we just started having a dialogue. He was just a lonely vet, and when we got done he said ‘I just appreciate you being there’ and ‘Would you mind if I called you some other time?’ And I said ‘of course not,’” McCabe said.
There’s something unique about the operators at the Combat Call Center. Most all of them served in the military.
“That's the best part about this job, helping fellow veterans,” said Army Reservist Andrew Carraway. He served in Afghanistan, and says his experience at war helps him relate.
“When I came back and I wanted someone to talk to, that was a big deal to me too,” Carraway said.
The number for the Combat Call Center is 877-WAR-VETS. To learn more about it, click here: http://www.vetcenter.va.gov/media/Call-Center-PSA.asp.