So on May 6 of 2019,
2019 年的 5 月 6 日，
the sun was shining, the sky was blue,
clouds were that puffy white.
It was a perfect spring day.
I was walking back to my office,
and my phone rang.
And it was one of my lieutenants.
I said, "Hey, John.
He said, "Sir, I'm good.
But I've got some bad news."
He said our executive officer died that weekend.
We went back and forth,
"What do you mean, what are you talking about?"
I asked him what happened.
He said, "Sir, he killed himself."
I walked around my office for a couple of hours in a complete fog,
trying to understand what had happened, why.
I had just communicated with him a few months earlier.
And I had no idea that this officer was in trouble.
And I fault myself as a leader for not having known that.
I went on this process of trying to figure out
why, what's happening in the veteran community,
why are these things going on.
I read reports from the Department of Veteran Affairs,
Department of Defense,
I've read national studies on mental health
and the issues associated with it.
I'm going to share with you some of the things I found out.
Department of Veteran Affairs has taken the lead on veteran suicide,
and it's actually their number one priority.
Based on the reports they have and the numbers that I've calculated,
between 2001 and 2019,
在 2001 年到 2019 年
during the time of the Global War on Terror,
my approximation is there's 115,000 veterans
据我估计， 大约有11 万 5 千名退役老兵
who have died by their own hands.
I also looked at the Department of Defense report
that lists casualties.
This particular report
lists the casualties from October of 2001
列出了从 2001 年 10 月 到去年 11 月 18 号的
specifically to November 18 of last year.
During that time frame and the Global War on Terror,
there have been 5,440 active duty members killed in action.
有 5440 名现役军人 在行动中阵亡。
So by my numbers, 115,000 approximate suicides,
所以根据我的统计， 有大约 11 万 5 千人自杀，
5,440 killed in action.
What does that mean to me?
We have approximately 21 veterans ending their lives by their own hand
for every one that is killed by an enemy combatant.
就有 21 位退伍军人 结束了自己的生命。
It's a staggering, staggering number.
These national studies
that deal with mental health tell us
that if you have any type of genetic mental health issue within your family
that can be passed on,
or if something has happened to you in your childhood that was traumatic,
your ability to deal with post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD,
They also tell us
that if you want to have a full evaluation,
determine if somebody has PTSD,
you need to have a minimum of one hour interview
with a mental health expert
that's trained to detect what PTSD is
to determine if you suffer from it.
Now let me talk about what happens when you enter into the military.
When you join the armed forces,
you're going to go through a medical exam,
you're going to take a physical fitness test,
you're going to take a drug test,
you're going to take a vocational test
so they can figure out what you're good at
and hopefully place you in that type of job category.
But would you believe
that with approximately 115,000 suicides over the last 20 years,
得知过去二十年间 有超过 11 万 5 千起自杀，
and the data that we know from the national studies
on how to determine if somebody is going to be able to cope
with post-traumatic stress disorder,
we still don't have a standardized mental health evaluation
for our recruits entering into the service.
That's something I think that needs to change.
when you leave the service --
When I left the service in 2003,
我在 2003 年退伍的时候，
I had to attend some mandatory classes,
about two days' worth of classes,
and then I was on my way.
Today, it's a little different.
Today you'll actually get a call
if you're on what we call terminal leave
or paid time off that you're trying to use up
before you actually are fully discharged.
I talked to one veteran who got a call.
He was on his way home from work,
and the only thing he could think of
was, "How quick can I get off this?"
And I think the call lasted maybe 10 or 15 minutes.
我记得这个电话持续了 大概 10 到 15 分钟。
But yet the national studies tell us
it needs to be an in-person, one-hour interview.
I think that's something that we can improve upon.
There's another thing that the Department of Veteran Affairs
talked about in the reports.
They said that our service members that are self-medicating
tend to be at a significantly higher risk of suicide.
So those veterans that are self-medicating with alcohol,
or drug abuse --
and in fact, the Department of Veteran Affairs has classified
opioid use disorder, OUD,
as one of the epidemics.
So as I talked to marines from my unit
and tried to learn more about it,
I started to find out some really, really alarming things.
I had a marine who came back from Iraq
and he went to the hospital for a "back pain"
and he was prescribed some opioids.
He also suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.
He became addicted to these painkillers,
because not only did it mask the pain in his back,
but it helped him to cope
with some of the horrific things that he had to see, experience and do
over in the Middle East.
And he eventually overdosed.
Another challenge we have
is that when you're on active duty,
you are under the Department of Defense.
And so all of your doctors, all your health care
is in that category.
When you leave the service,
you are now part of the Department of Veteran Affairs.
So these active duty members
that seek help for their mental health issues
并被诊断患有 PTSD 或其他心理健康疾病的
and are diagnosed with PTSD or other mental health issues,
when they leave the service,
there's no transition to a doctor
that's in the Department of Veteran Affairs
or perhaps out in the civilian world
because of privacy acts.
Now there's some good news in this.
Just recently, it was legislated
that a database will be built
that will house both Department of Defense health records
and Department of Veteran Affairs health records.
But I want to take that thought a step further.
My company was 204 marines and sailors strong.
我的公司由 204 名 海军陆战队队员和水手组成。
As I looked at and I talked to my marines from my unit,
what we came up with is we are well in excess of a dozen
of our members that committed suicide.
When I talk to senior leadership in the battalion,
and battalion is about six to seven hundred marines,
一个营大约有 600 到 700 名海军成员——
they estimate that we're in the hundreds who have committed suicide.
So let's take this database that we're building,
and let's go a little bit further with it.
What if when a veteran passes away,
whether it's natural causes,
overdose or suicide,
we're able to feed that into the Veteran Affairs
who is then able to access Department of Defense records,
identify what type of units they were in,
what contingencies and operations did they participate in,
and let's build the data points to try to figure out
are there units that are more susceptible to develop post-traumatic stress disorder
有没有更容易发展出 PTSD 的部门，
so that we can get them the mental health
prior to going on deployment,
prior to being in theater.
If they're in theater,
get them the mental health while they're in theater,
and get them mental health counseling and help
before they even come home out of theater.
if we can build those sets of data points to be able to do that,
we don't just apply them to the military,
we can also use that for the general population.
If we put our minds together
and our resources together,
and we openly talk about this,
and try to find solutions
for this epidemic that's going on in America,
hopefully we can save a life.
Those are my thoughts, my ideas,
I hope that this talk is not the end of this discussion
but rather the beginning of it.
And I want to thank you for your time today.