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House division OKs proposed Veterans Suicide Awareness Day

A statistic many people may have heard is that 22 United States military service members commit suicide every day.

But sometimes, the discussion on the topic ends right there because it’s unmentionable in military circles.

It’s time to break that taboo, said Rep. Jamie Becker-Finn (DFL-Roseville), who sponsors HF586 to establish the first Saturday of every October as Veterans Suicide Awareness Day. The bill would direct the governor to issue a proclamation honoring this observance each year.

The House Veterans and Military Affairs Finance and Policy Division approved the bill Tuesday and sent it to the House Government Operations Committee. The companion, SF814, sponsored by Sen. Jerry Newton (DFL-Coon Rapids), awaits action by the Senate Veterans and Military Affairs Finance and Policy Committee.

Alissa Harrington told division members of her younger brother’s suicide, and said the bill is a starting place to address the issue of suicide by military veterans. “It’s a way to bring awareness to the issue, and most importantly to bring it out of the shadows and into the daylight.”

Her younger brother, Justin Miller, was a Marine Corps trumpet player who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and suicidal thoughts after returning home to Minnesota from a deployment in Iraq. Music was the love of his life, Harrington said, and it gave him great joy.

But his deployment changed him and he came home “a different person.”

“He came home a little bit less fun, a little more tense,” Harrington said.

Miller sought help at the Minneapolis Department of Veterans Affairs hospital in February 2018, but ended up committing suicide in the parking lot after a brief stay in the hospital’s mental health unit.

“I believe it is time that we speak about the issue of veterans’ suicide, how we prevent it, how we address the care of veterans in a crisis, and how we care for the community afterwards,” she said. “Because we can’t lose another soldier.”

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