Crisis Line Available for Veterans Coping with Suicide

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HARLINGEN – Many veterans are dealing with a dangerous battle in their minds. It’s a battle many of them are losing.

According to the Veterans Affairs Department, a total of 20 veterans commit suicide every day. If you calculate that over the course of a year, more than 7,000 veterans lose their lives a year.

In 1967, years after the Cuban Missile Crisis, the United States Navy Hunter Patrol Squadron 18 was called into action near Guantanamo Bay.

"We were coming back from a patrol. We were hunting for Russian submarines down and around Cuba,” said Navy veteran Marshal Hoverson. 

U.S. Navy Aircraft Mechanic veteran Marshall Hoverson was 23 years old during the mission. He was on the floor in the back of an SP2V Neptune Submarine Hunter Aircraft.

Hoverson said they didn't have enough seats on the aircraft so he just used a strap around his waist. He explained the plane had a long cable with a listening device attached that they dipped into foreign waters.

"And they could tell when you had submarine down there by the noise of the propeller and the people inside the submarine, you could actually hear them,” he said.  

Hoverson didn't know this mission would change his life forever.

"We don't know for sure what exactly happened, we either had a flat tire or blew out a tire when we touched down,” he said.  

The aircraft landed and went off the runway, hitting a steel wench.

“And did a spin on the side of the runway and came to a stop almost immediately and just violently shook everybody around on that aircraft,” he recalled.  

Hoverson said the nightmares of the crash were too much to bear.

“It didn't happen often.  There were times I was convinced, you know, that I was... I would just be better off dead and thought about committing suicide,” said Hoverson. 

He struggled with flashbacks for 50 years. His friends and family encouraged him to get help. 

"It took me a long time to call that Veterans Crisis Hotline. You had to work up the courage to do it, it seemed, like to tell someone else your problems,” he said.  

VA Valley Coastal Bend Suicide Prevention Program Coordinator Nicole Theriot said 20 veterans die every day from suicide nationwide. Theriot explained the Veterans Crisis Line can help save lives.

"When veterans and active duty now, when they call that 1-800 number and they press one, they're actually connected with VA staff. We staff the hotline ourselves and it's 24/7,” she said.  

Theriot said challenges still exist in suicide prevention.

"A few things of note out of 20, VA and health care only sees six of those veterans so that means the other 14 are out there in the community,” she said.  

Theriot said they need to find those veterans.   

"Is to find out where those 14 veterans are, where they are receiving care and really trying to partner more with our community resources. We know that some of them are seeking care out there in the community versus coming to us,” she said.  

Hoverson wants other veterans to share his peace of mind.

"I hope I can convince somebody to come in here and get some help,” said Hoverson.  

He said laughter can return to your life, but you have to take it back.

VA officials said the crisis line is open 24 hours a day all year. The crisis line can be used by veterans in need or their families. 

The number to call is 1-800-273-8255 and press 1. You can also send text messages to 838255 and visit the Veteran Crisis Line website for more information.

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