ON THE RECORD: President Devotes 34 Seconds to Vet Suicide Epidemic That’s Claiming 6,800 Lives per Year

Full Text of President Obama’s Speech to the American Legion in Minneapolis

by President Barack Obama
MPR News, Aug. 30, 2011

BLOGBACK: In a major speech at the 2011 annual convention of one of America’s largest veterans organizations, the president mentioned suicide briefly near the tail end of his 34-minute speech — for just 34 seconds (25:27 — 26:11). In the text translation provided by the White House, the word “suicide” appears once. It also must be noted that presidential condolence letters for military suicide victims who die at home — where the majority of military suicides actually occur due to the delayed onset of PTSD and TBI injuries — still are not provided to the surviving families.

Hello Legionnaires! Thank you, Commander Foster, for your introduction and for your lifetime of service-to your fellow Marines, soldiers and veterans. On behalf of us all, thank you Jimmie. And thank you to your entire leadership team for welcoming me today. Your National Adjutant, Dan Wheeler. Your Executive Director, your voice in Washington, Peter Gaytan. And the President of the American Legion Auxiliary, Carlene Ashworth.

To Rehta Foster and all the spouses, daughters and sisters of the Auxiliary…and the Sons of the American Legion … as military families, you also served, and we salute you as well.

It is wonderful to be back with the American Legion. Back in Illinois, we worked together to make sure veterans across the state were getting the benefits they had earned. When I was in the Senate, we worked together to shine a spotlight on the tragedy of homelessness among our veterans-and the need to end it.

As President, I’ve welcomed Jimmie and your leadership to the Oval Office-to hear directly from you. And I’ve been honored to have you by my side when I signed advance appropriations to protect veterans health care from the budget battles in Washington.

When I signed legislation to give new support to veterans and their caregivers. And most recently, when I proposed new initiatives to make sure the private sector is hiring our talented veterans.

So, American Legion, I thank you for your partnership.

And I appreciate the opportunity to talk with you today about what we need to do to make sure America is taking care of our veterans as well as you’ve taken care of us.

I’m grateful to be with you for another reason. A lot of our fellow citizens are still reeling from Hurricane Irene and its aftermath. Folks are surveying the damage and some are dealing with tremendous flooding. As a government, we’re going to make sure that states and communities have the support they need as people recover.

We’re working aggressively to address another signature wound of this war, which has led too many fine troops and veterans to take their own lives-Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. We’re continuing to make major investments-improving outreach and suicide prevention, hiring and training more mental health counselors and treating more veterans than ever before.

The days when depression and PTSD were stigmatized must end. That’s why I made the decision to start sending condolence letters to the families of service members who take their lives while deployed in a combat zone. These American patriots did not die because they were weak — President Barack Obama, Aug. 30, 2011

And across the nation, we’re still digging out from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. It’s taking longer and been more difficult than any of us had imagined. And even though we’ve taken some steps in the right direction, we have to do more.

Our economy has to grow faster. We have to create more jobs, and do it faster. Most of all, we have to break the gridlock in Washington that’s been preventing us from taking the action we need to get this economy moving.

That’s why, next week, I’ll be speaking to the nation about a plan to create jobs and reduce our deficit — a plan I want to see passed in Congress. We need to get this done.

Here’s what else I know. We Americans have been through tough times before, much tougher than these. And we didn’t just get through them, we emerged stronger than before. Not by luck. Not by chance. But because in hard times, Americans don’t quit.

We don’t give up.

We summon that spirit that says, when we come together, when we choose to move forward together, as one people, there’s absolutely nothing we can’t achieve.

Read the entire transcript of the president’s speech:

http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2011/08/30/obama-american-legion-remarks/

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