Veterans Organizations Urge Congress To Establish ‘Warrior Call Day’ Combatting Military Suicide Epidemic

(Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Micaela Burrow Investigative Reporter, Defense
Font Size:
  • Veterans organizations have backed a letter aimed at establishing a National Warrior Call Day, a national day encouraging veterans and active duty servicemembers to reach out if they’re considering taking their own lives.
  • The initiative raises awareness for veterans and active duty servicemembers who often suffer from post-combat trauma and have a high propensity to commit suicide.
  • “You know that that person you’re going to call served in some capacity, so they understand your hardship,” Rosie Torres, Executive Director at Burn Pits 360 veterans organization, told the Daily Caller News Foundation.

Nearly 50 veterans organizations urged Congress to take action against the suicide epidemic plaguing veteran and active duty communities in a Wednesday letter.

A grassroots campaign to have Congress establish National Warrior Call Day, a national holiday encouraging military personnel to reach out to veterans, service members and first responders who are at higher risk of suicidal intention, fizzled out last year. Organizations that advocate on behalf of veterans are urging congressmembers to back a new resolution codifying the initiative they say could decrease feelings of isolation that lead individuals in uniform to commit suicide.

“Far more emphasis must be placed on reaching those veterans, service members and first responders who do not raise their hands … whose physical or psychological injuries have left them perilously disconnected from others and who do not not avail themselves of services,” the letter stated.

Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire plan to introduce a resolution in Congress as early as Thursday in hopes of including the bill in the broader defense budget for 2023, the Troops First Foundation, the organization spearheading Warrior Call, told the Daily Caller News Foundation. Shaheen sponsored the bill in 2021, with Cotton and five other senators signing on as co-sponsors, but the bill failed to make it all the way through the House of Representatives.

The initiative calls for the Sunday after Veterans Day to be declared “National Warrior Call Day.” Signatories include the Wounded Warrior Project, Burn Pits 360 and the Coalition to Heal Invisible Wounds, among other organizations.

“Such recognition would draw attention to those service members, veterans and first responders who may be dangerously disconnected from family, friends and support systems and who may be spiraling into suicidal thoughts,” the letter stated.

Military suicide rates increased 20% in 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, pointing to the possible effects of increased stress and isolation on troop members, according to the foundation. Research conducted at the end of 2021 found that an estimated 30,177 active duty personnel and veterans of the post-9/11 wars had died by suicide, far higher than the number of actual combat deaths, which stood around 7,057.

Fallout from the chaotic withdrawal of U.S. troops form Afghanistan may have also “spurred anguish and frustration” among Afghanistan War veterans, contributing to higher suicide rates. Many U.S. service members saw their Afghan allies and fellow Americans left behind to face the brutal Taliban regime, while a terrorist suicide bombing killed 13 of their colleagues helping people evacuate the Kabul airport. (RELATED: ‘Worse Than Saigon’: Former Green Beret Rips Biden For ‘Cold-Hearted’ Withdrawal From Afghanistan)

Burn Pits 360 founder Rosie Torres advocated for the Burn Pits bill President Joe Biden signed into law in August, following a years-long battle for her husband’s case on employment discrimination and neglect from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) after he sustained mysterious illnesses from exposure to toxic “burn pits” in Iraq. Warrior Call saved her husband, Le Roy Torres, when he attempted to take his own life a few years ago, she told the DCNF.

Torres later received calls from other current and former service members. “He has stayed on the call just like they did for him,” Rosie Torres said.

The VA operates a 1-800 suicide hotline, but Warrior Call is different, Torres told the DCNF. “You know that that person you’re going to call served in some capacity, so they understand your hardship,” she added.

Researchers at the VA have identified social isolation as “arguably the strongest and most reliable predictor of suicidal ideation, [suicide] attempts and lethal suicidal behavior.”

Veteran-focused legislation, like the burn pit bill, has often been wrapped up in partisan politics, according to Torres. She believes bringing Warrior Call to the federal level could make a difference.

“If we educate America, which can be our community, it could save lives the way it did for my family,” Torres said.

Shaheen’s office did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.