BRATTLEBORO -- In February 2013, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimated about 22 of America’s former soldiers committed suicide each day. These acts can often be the result of the physical and emotional scars from military service and account for one of the more embarrassing statistics for the federal government.
In an effort to make a dent in these figures, The Warrior Connection started a new initiative called BATTLE-BRO to create a support system veterans can use to connect with and help their military brothers and sisters in arms. BATTLE-BRO consists of a national telephone database filled with veterans who take a soft pledge to call one other member of the database each day and check in on their comrade.
Dr. Anne Black, the founding director of TWC, which offers retreats for veterans with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, said the initiative has been responsible for preventing at least six suicides since mid-December because troubled veterans have been able to talk out their issues and get in touch with professional help.
Black said veterans enrolled with BATTLE-BRO are entered in the database and listed by state. She explained each member is asked to make one call a day to another person in the database (ideally in the same state) and can then check off that person’s name online. Black compared it to a slate being wiped clean at midnight, when the whole process starts again.
"Just like when they were in the military, they have each other’s backs," she said.
The initiative bloomed in Brattleboro in December and is now available in 47 states. Black said she believes Hawaii, South Dakota and Delaware are the states not affiliated with the program, though she believes Delaware is now interested.
Black, who referred to it as a "vet-to-vet safety net," told the Reformer all a veteran has to do to enroll online is to fill out the form at www.battle-bro.org and send it along attached with his discharge papers, (known as a DD-214). She said each veteran will be entered into the database within 24 to 48 hours and will then be able to log into it. Black said it the initiative is called BATTLE-BRO, but all female veterans are welcome to join and they can even choose to contact only other women veterans if they wish. TWC has worked with Green River Data Analysis in Brattleboro to design the database and BATTLE-BRO.org now has its own Facebook page.
"This could really get Brattleboro national recognition because this is where BATTLE-BRO began," she said. "I really believe we have a moral and ethical obligation to these veterans, especially the combat veterans, who have fought for our freedom."
TWC reports that one in three soldiers will return from service with PTSD, major depression and/or traumatic brain injury.
Domenic Poli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.