Foundation President Darren Bean called on community members to help get veterans transition back into the community when they return home.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — On average 20 veterans a day commit suicide.
"Veterans are about 6 percent of the population but they are 20 percent of the suicide rate right now. That is something we as a community, we as veterans, we as active service members, can all work on to help those veterans as they transition back into this very strange life," said Darren Bean, the president of the Warrior Thunder Foundation, a non-profit organization who focus on helping veterans from even getting to that point.
"For those who served, it is very difficult, as we know, to leave that very rigid schedule, that camaraderie, that great meaningful life, how every task is important. And then moving on to a life that doesn't seem that important with people who aren't as brotherly as the people you just left."
It takes an entire community to curb those statistics. On Thursday, Bean and eight fellow veterans from the organization began a 200-mile, non-stop ruck across the state — starting in Pittsfield — to shed light on the issue of veterans suicide. The group will march through some 50 small towns across the state, ending at Plymouth Rock on Sunday.
The group started Thursday at noon at the New York border and by 2 p.m. they hit Park Square. There, veterans groups, citizens, and elected officials were on hand to welcome them with open arms.
"It was great to see the very first town we go through, there are a ton of people out here and such great support from veterans groups, town officials, state officials. We're really happy," Bean said.
Pittsfield's Director of Veterans Services James Clark read a proclamation, signed by Mayor Linda Tyer, declaring Thursday veterans suicide awareness day. Tyer, state Sen. Adam Hinds, state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, and City Councilor Anthony Simonelli were elected officials on hand to greet the veterans.
"Veteran suicide is an issue that all of us should concern ourselves with," Clark said. "The transition from the military to civilian life is often times drastic and the needs of our veterans must be addressed not only at the federal level, but here locally and this event demonstrates that every community has a role."
Bean says the help curb those numbers, community help is important. He called on residents in the communities to "bring them in" to church groups, community groups, bowling leagues, and have businesses hire them as employees.
"We want to fix that from the beginning so they don't even get to that road, helping them with jobs, helping with community outreach, financial assistance, scholarships so they can go learn a new skill and do something great with their life," Bean said. "They want to find something meaningful. Let them come back into your communities and find something with you all."
And he wants the community to help get veterans help with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
"I know there is a lot of bad rap about the VA out there, some of it deserved, some of it not deserved. But a female veteran with post traumatic stress who does not seek treatment at the VA is 95 percent more likely to take her own life than her civilian peer," Bean said, adding that for men the number is at 50 percent. "That's a big number."
The group will finish completing the Berkshires on Thursday night, going through Dalton, Windsor, and into Cummington. Throughout the route in Pittsfield, many from the community lined the streets as they walked by, holding flags and cheering.
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Post 68 Ousted by Greenfield in American Legion Playoffs
By Stephen DravisiBerkshires.com Sports
WILBRAHAM, Mass. -- Things went wrong in a hurry for the Pittsfield Post 68 American Legion Baseball team in the late innings on Tuesday night.
But as his team slowly made its way into the gloaming at Spec Pond Recreation Area, coach Pat Bassi pivoted to thoughts of everything that went right in the program over the better part of a decade.
“A lot of these kids have played for me since they were 13, when I was still coaching Babe Ruth, so there’s a lot of history with us,” Bassi said after a 7-3 loss to Greenfield in the Western Massachusetts Senior Legion tournament.
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