Christmas is a very special time of year for America’s veterans.

During this holiday, legendary events have occurred on the battlefield and in garrisons around the world.

Events such as self-imposed ceasefires between German and Allied troops during World War I follow long traditions of America’s veterans celebrating the joy, peace, and goodwill to all symbolized by this most happy of holidays, even in war zones.

Here at home, our veterans have a special place in the hearts of all our citizens. The now-famous Wreaths Across America effort is a clear and visual way we honor our war dead at Christmas by placing wreaths on graves from the Revolutionary War to present-day conflicts at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia — and more than 1,600 other locations around the world.

Today’s veterans who are still with us love this holiday — but we also must deal with the brutal, day-to-day reality that our veterans are committing suicide at a rate of 20 or more every single day.

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The suicide rate for veterans was 1.5 times greater in 2016 than for Americans who never served in the military, according to the Military Times last year.

Think about this for a moment.

Roughly 20 veterans a day across our country take their own lives — and veterans accounted for 14 percent of all adult suicide deaths in the U.S. in 2016. That’s true even though only 8 percent of the country’s population served in the military.

That’s why, this year, I want to again highlight an organization that helps veterans on the ground, face to face every day of the year, no matter what it takes.

 

The group, Code Of Vets is an amazing grassroots assistance organization with a national network to “take care of our own.”

Gretchen Smith, founder of the organization and an Air Force veteran, said her team of volunteers — veterans, family members, friends, neighbors, others — “are capable of immediately responding to veterans in crisis by harnessing the power of social media platforms.”

I have seen these wonderful Americans in action firsthand in all kinds of situations — from helping to find missing veterans, interrupting suicides, and even making sure a homeless veteran got a new car so he could move out of a transition facility and into his own apartment.

The group has even found dental restoration doctors to donate full-mouth restorations for veterans in need.

And the group’s efforts truly interrupt veteran suicide rates where it counts.

Code of Vets reaches across the nation for veterans and their families who have struggled throughout the year. Please join us in honoring our American heroes this holiday season. I hope everyone we can reach donates to the program because we never know when we’ve saved a life from suicide — and this is a real action anyone can take to help those in need.

America’s veterans have sacrificed everything for us. Millions live with excruciating and life-limiting disabilities caused by a myriad of things they’ve willingly subjected themselves to in the wars they’ve fought in, for the sake of the nation and our citizens — from enemy fire to toxic substance exposures.

Because of this, they live with missing limbs, debilitating traumatic brain injuries, post-traumatic stress, and multiple occurrences of diseases such as cancers.

While we all want the government to care for them as they deserve and have earned, unfortunately we citizens and veterans have to work every day to make it happen, by putting pressure on the Department of Veterans Affairs and by supporting volunteer organizations to help out however they can.

This Christmas, as a veteran myself, it’s my hope that more and more Americans can add the CodeOfVets program to their list of compassion-based nonprofits to support.

Please donate at codeofvets.com.

Merry Christmas and happy holidays to all.