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Making a meaningful difference

Each year, this is a time to count our blessings and reflect on our appreciation of those who have sacrificed so much to ensure our freedom here in West Virginia and across the nation.

Veterans Day is an important moment to honor, with solemn gratitude, the men and women who put their lives on the line to protect ours, and to express our deepest thanks for those who continue serving our state and country.

Recently, I joined Department of Veterans Assistance Deputy Secretary Billy Wayne Bailey to raise awareness about the pressing mental health issues many veterans battle on a daily basis. Early this year, Deputy Secretary Bailey came to me with a plan he wanted to set in motion to create a state-sponsored program to protect these men and women.

Too many veterans across the country, and here at home in the Mountain State, are taking their own lives. Through a new program, we are working to address the unseen injuries our soldiers bring home after serving our country, because we believe these suicides are preventable.

Mountain State 22 — paying homage to the 22 veterans who take their own lives each day across the country — places a spotlight on the issues that can lead to veteran suicide, while providing support to those who may be at risk. Here in West Virginia, we lose a reported eight veterans to suicide last year.

Even one loss is too many.

Mountain State 22 honors our veterans and their families in a real, tangible way. It brings mental health issues out of the shadows and into a dialogue that leads to real help. Already, the Department of Veterans Assistance has held meetings and formed working groups in locations around the state, bringing together people who are committed to seeing this program succeed — and helping our veterans overcome the challenges they face.

Today, as we reflect on the vast sacrifices our service men and women have made for us, I hope West Virginians will join together in lifting up the veterans around us who might be struggling – by learning more about the struggles they could be encountering, giving them profound thanks for their tremendous service, and offering unending support.

For more information about Mountain State 22 and the Department of Veterans Assistance, visit www.veterans.wv.gov.

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