Soldier encourages community support for vets

A decorated soldier is devoting his life to a new mission.  He's traveling the country to organize community support for returning veterans.

The list of awards and decorations Colonel David Sutherland has range from the Purple Heart to his Senior Parachutist Badge.  He says many U.S. soldiers have seen things civilians can't even imagine and when they return home, finding someone they can relate to is especially critical.

That's why COL. Sutherland's newest mission is to establish a support system for returning vets in every state in the nation.  Nebraska is the 43rd state he has visited.   He says, “It starts with us admitting that this stigma exists and then working with the families to encourage them to get help, but also the voice of the veteran.”

He says getting that voice to be heard can be especially difficult because some vets have a very difficult time relating to the world they come back to.  “They've experienced unbelievable horrors of wars in some cases.  Holding a five-year-old girl in your arms who's been shot in the face because here father's a policeman.   Going into a torture house and seeing in one corner arms, in another corner heads.  And when people understand that and they connect, they can enable them.”

COL. Sutherland talked with local churches and other organizations that help returning veterans reconnect.  He says there is no one solution, but with better communication among these organizations and more support from the community, the 18 veteran suicides that statistically take place each day can be prevented.  “It's not just the veteran.  It's the military family an our families of the fallen.  Quite honestly, we owe it to them.”

Colonel Sutherland says 12% of Vietnam vets ended up homeless and he's not willing to let that happen to the veterans currently serving overseas.