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America Needs More Clarences and Fewer Suicides in 2024. Volunteers for the Former?
The latest news from the CDC is that in 2022 almost 50,000 deaths from suicide were recorded in America – a 2.6% rise over 2021 which itself had a ...

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America Needs More Clarences and Fewer Suicides in 2024. Volunteers for the Former?

The latest news from the CDC is that in 2022 almost 50,000 deaths from suicide were recorded in America – a 2.6% rise over 2021 which itself had a 5% increase over the year prior — almost 1,000 deaths per week. Nearly 30 percent of those deaths were veterans - who take their own lives at the rate of 44 per day – twice what is reported by the VA. The year of 2024 is not trending well.

As a Navy veteran and on behalf of vets and their advocates at End Veteran Debt (EVD), I invite my reader to join us and our partner organization Veteran Mission Possible (VMP) in 2024 and beyond to reduce these warrior community tragedies. These are your sons, daughters, neighbors, and friends, and every one of them is America’s protector. If we can keep them alive.

But first, you’ll have to watch a movie…perhaps again, and again

It’s a Wonderful Life will be your primer and guide, as it introduces us to an early view of what today we call “social determinants,” the upstream influences that together shape our future – all too many being financial. 

As the movie unfolds, Its protagonist, George Bailey (as played by James Stewart) is shown as having given up on his dreams by taking on the burden of being the owner of the Bedford Falls Savings & Loan willed to him by his father. All’s relatively well for George and his family until, through a cruel twist of fate, on Christmas Eve he finds his savings and loan firm at the edge of bankruptcy and himself in personal ruin.

It’s just too much to take. George’s answer, his way out, he determines is to commit suicide so that his $15,000 insurance policy will cover the losses.

Heaven sends an unlikely rescuer, Clarence Odbody (an Angel Second Class who over the past 200 years has yet to do enough good to earn his wings). Clarence’s assignment isn’t easy: bring George, who in his despair wishes that he had never been born to a better understanding of his worth, to value the life he has lived, and lead him away from this final and horrible act of self-harm.

“What value? George would argue, unaware that without him, there would not have been a war-hero aviator brother downing a Japanese Kamikaze to save a transport ship full of soldiers, no one to rescue a preoccupied pharmacist from a 20-year sentence for manslaughter for causing a child to die, no one with the moral fiber to thwart the greed of banker Harry Potter, and…well…. you get the idea.

Finally, after a painful evening of revelations, George returns home with a heart full of gratitude to face whatever fate has in store for him, only to find that his friends and family have rallied to more than save him from prison. Oh yes, and helping Clarence earn his wings along the way.

If there had not been a Clarence, a “failure” and hopelessly second-class Angel persevering and doing his best, so much good would have been lost.

We need you, you “George Bailey’s” out there. Today, out of a population of over 330 million Americans, 19 million Americans are veterans. Waiting in the wings are 1.4 million men and women in the military today and more to come. Someday, some will need a Clarence. 

The good news is that it is unlikely that any of you will have to jump into a frigid stream to interrupt a suicidal event or thought. Your circumstances will be different; the need will not. The second piece of good news is that there’s a large storehouse of wings waiting to be awarded. 

Do I see you raising your right hand?

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