Combating rise of suicides among military veterans [podcast]

On “Pensacola Speaks,” USAF Major Damon Friedman discussed on Monday his efforts to combat the rise in suicides among our military veterans.

“There is an epidemic going on. Right now, in our country, 22 veterans are taking their lives every single day,” said Friedman. “What does that mean? That means literally every 65 minutes one American hero takes their life.”

He said, “They do it because they’ve lost all hope. They have no sense of purpose. They’ve come to the end of the rope, and for whatever it is, life is so bleak, it’s so dark, that they’ve decided that it’s better for them to take their own lives. I’m telling you this is a catastrophe, it’s an epidemic. Our nation needs to know about it and we not only should do something, we must do something about it.”

Since 2011, Friedman has been the president of SOF Mission, whose main focus is to conduct medical missions trips and serve through light construction, food/clothing distribution, domestic and international disaster relief. His Surrender Project is an outreach ministry of SOF Missions that helps veterans deal with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It focuses on the mind, body and soul of the individuals.

“We believe that there’s a lot of organizations out there and they’re dedicated to our veterans, but some of them are just addressing the psychological issues. Some of them are just addressing the physical issues. Some of them are only addressing the spiritual issue, the soul,” said Friedman.

“The Surrender Project addresses all three components,” he said.

“How do we do that? Psychologically, we send our men, our gunslingers, to camp that is literally life changing, life transforming. The results are unbelievable. After we address the psychological opponent, then we send them here. We’ve got this great contract going on with EXOS, which is associated with the Andrews Institute,” said Friedman.

“We send our gunslingers, our warriors, to EXOS to get the physical component taken care of and get back on their feet,” he said. “Lastly, we address the spiritual component. We provide a nine-month program that literally allows them to learn more about who they are and give them tools in order to endure the dark times.”

On Thursday, June 23, SOF Missions is hosting the Healing Our Nation’s Warriors Gala to raise funds for The Surrender Project. The event starts at 7 p.m. and will be held at New World Landing. Tickets can be purchased online.

“Healing Our Nations Warriors Gala is all about just gathering our community. We’re going to have state representatives there. We’re going to have Hollywood actors. We’re going to have professional athletes. We’re going to be having all sorts of really predominant people within the community. We even have former Los Angeles Dodgers General Manager/Vice President Kevin Malone,coming all the way out here,” said Friedman.

“Every penny raised at this fundraiser, from purchasing the ticket to participating in the silent auction or just straight up sponsoring a warrior, is going into sponsoring a warrior,” he said. “The goal initially is to sponsor 22 warriors, and once we get 22 warriors, we’re going to try to get 100. Once we get 100, we’re going to try to get 200.”