Operation Zero – Stay in the Fight!
I want to take this month to feature some of the great things my Veteran brothers in other motorcycle clubs are doing. VNV/Legacy MC has a mission to reduce veteran suicide that has become a major focus of theirs. Thank you Mudflap for the article and the entire club for allowing this effort to be brought forward.
Suicide has become the leading cause of death in the U.S. military—exceeding accidents, car crashes, and even combat. Historically, the suicide rate in the military has been below the civilian rate. But since the early 2000s, the rate of suicides has been steadily increasing. This must stop and for the past five years, the Viet Nam Vet Legacy Vet Motorcycle Club has led a campaign to end Veteran Suicide. It is simply called Operation Zero – “Zero Veterans Attempt Suicide!”.
The average number of Veteran suicide deaths per day has equaled or exceeded 16 since 2007 (2019 VA Report) and another 5-9 Veterans attempt suicide. Despite death not being the outcome, these veterans still cause great injury to themselves and others. Moreover, those who attempt suicide are much more likely to attempt it again. Rather than focus on the fictitious and often touted number of 22, it was important for us to not forget those other 5-9 that attempt suicide. Some of our members who served as far back as Vietnam have not dealt with the turmoil that combat caused and this Operation became imperative after a few members committed suicide in late 2014. Much like how the Viet Nam Vets Motorcycle club helped start and inspire Rolling Thunder in Washington DC, Operation Zero is sparking a national dialogue about Veterans, PTSD, and suicide prevention with lawmakers locally and nationally. The goal of the mission? Zero, not one Veteran life lost to suicide.
The Veteran Suicide Prevention patch that many members wear is the logo for Operation Zero. A handful of members collaborated to design the patch with the thought of it becoming the national symbol for Veteran Suicide Prevention, much like the POW/MIA patch. The stop sign shape was used because Veteran suicide needs to stop. The five stars represent each branch of the Armed Forces. The Veteran kneeling represents all of us and the dog tags signify the pride that, as Veterans, we never stop carrying around with us. Red was chosen to represent the bloodshed and black symbolizes how we will mourn the loss should we fail to support them. The motto “Never Quit on Life” is a pledge to never quit on my life or the life of a Veteran.
Operation Zero has raised over ten thousand dollars, all of which have been donated to amazing organizations that aid in intervention; The Mighty Oaks Foundation, Veterans Charity Ride, and American Foundation for Suicide Prevention to name a few. Implemented training developed from the Army Master Resilience training and American Foundation for suicide prevention. We also continue to advocate for policy changes as the need for more legislation, such as the Clay Hunt Act, expanding Veteran access to mental health services is key. But more needs to be done! Moving forward, it would help to decrease this epidemic if all Veterans were required to enroll with the Veterans Administration prior to separation from service. As the VA’s own statistics show, Veterans already enrolled in the Administration are far less likely to attempt suicide. We need to raise awareness and help break the stigma associated with PTSD so that Veterans will reach out for help. Veterans are not broken and there is nothing wrong with us. American society has changed, and we all yearn to belong to a tribe, for a sense of community, and for the brotherhood that we all shared in the Military.
Join us, we are in the fight of our lives and the battle rages every day. Stay in the Fight!
Rangers Lead The Way
Veterans In Arms VMC