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Advocates want designated day to raise awareness of military veteran suicides

There's a new push in Congress to designate a Sunday in November as a national day to raise awareness about suicides among the nation's veterans.

WASHINGTON — There's a new push in Congress to designate a Sunday in November as a national day to raise awareness about suicides among the nation's veteran population.

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, 6,261 veterans died by suicide in 2019.

The Defense Department said active duty suicides increased by 13% In 2021.

Now, a coalition of more than 45 nonprofit military veteran organizations has sent a letter to Congress to urge the establishment of "National Warrior Call Day."

The resolution would designate the Sunday after Veterans Day as a day to bolster awareness among Americans and push them to connect locally with warfighters who may be struggling with mental health issues.

"Our suicide numbers have not gone down. In some cases, they've gone up," said Troops First Foundation Chief Operating Officer Frank Larkin. "Even though the wars have ended on paper, they have not ended for the hundreds of thousands of veterans who struggle every day with the consequence of their service "

Larkin's son, Ryan, was a decorated Navy SEAL sniper who died by suicide at the age of 29 in 2017; Ryan was later discovered to have suffered from an undiagnosed traumatic brain injury related to blast exposure. 

"His story has illuminated this issue, certainly within the SEAL and Special Operations community," said Larkin, in an interview Wednesday with 13News Now. "We're still trying to feel our way through the tall grass to help these veterans that have become isolated and slipped into dark places where bad things happen."

Larkin added: "This is about preventing others from having to walk this path of pain."

The effort has the backing of all seven former Secretaries of Veterans Affairs, who signed the letter to Congress.

 A similar bill last year failed to advance beyond the House of Representatives.

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