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22 too many: campus veterans call for focus on suicide awareness

This upcoming Veteran’s Day, service member Ryan Wanasida wants to place 22 pairs of boots in the library foyer. Wanasida’s goal for this Veteran’s Day event is to raise awareness of the number of veteran suicides in the community and provide resources for affected veterans. Each pair of boots will represent one of the 22 suicides by veterans happening daily.

Wanasida, who provides resources for veterans at Washington State University Vancouver, hopes that the display will raise awareness on campus that veterans are a valued portion of the WSU community, and that there are resources available for those that need help. The display of boots will be accompanied by information for veterans regarding suicide awareness as well as resources available to campus veterans.

One of the most important thing students on campus can do to help veterans is realize that suicide is a major issue in the veteran’s community. Wanasida said that “people commit suicide not because they want to, it’s because of the things that happened to them that pushes over the edge.” Many veterans may struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder or from traumatic brain injury. Wanasida wants WSU Vancouver students to “just be aware of the situation.”

Wanasida also said that veterans can help each other. The best way for them to do this, said Wanasida, is to simply talk to one another. The method of help depends on the issue, and veterans can begin to help other veterans simply by talking to each other. They can then address individual problems or areas where a fellow veteran may need help. Additionally, according to Wanasida, WSU Vancouver has excellent counseling services for those that may need them.

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(Gallery Photo Credit: Alex Peru)

There are several services available to veterans on the WSU Vancouver campus. One of the resources available to campus veterans is the Veteran’s Center, located in the Classroom Building, VCLS 212. Wanasida said that the center is a place where veterans can come to hang out and connect with other veterans on campus. He said that a variety of different student veterans from different majors use the center, so it is a great place for them to get help with school work. The Veteran’s Center “gives student veterans a place where they can be involved in the campus community.”

Wanasida is a veteran of 14 years of active duty in the United States Navy, and is studying accounting and Management Information Systems at WSU Vancouver. He is currently also a reservist in the Naval Reserves. Before coming to WSU Vancouver, Wanasida attended WSU Tri-Cities. When transitioning from active military duty to college life, he was contacted and aided by the navigator for WSU Tri-Cities.

When Wanasida transferred to the Vancouver campus, he found that there was an opening for a veterans’ corps navigator. He applied for the position because he wanted to improve the community on campus and also improve services for veterans at WSU Vancouver.

Wanasida works for the Washington State office of the Department of Veterans Affairs as an intermediary between the VA and WSU Vancouver. Wanasida said that the idea for the boot display came from his annual veterans corps navigator training. Last year, Seattle City University started the event, and all local navigators will host similar events, but at different times throughout the year.

The Veteran’s Day display will be set up the week before the holiday and run until Nov. 12. In addition to the display of boots in the library to raise suicide awareness, flags will be displayed in the quad in honor of campus veterans and their service to the country. Wanasida hopes to help the veteran community at WSU Vancouver. With regards to what he hopes the display will achieve, Wanasida said “I just want people to understand that suicide is a reality and I think 22 is 22 too much.”

More information about veteran’s services can be found on the WSU Vancouver webpage at http://studentaffairs.vancouver.wsu.edu/student-affairs/veterans-affairs. Those interested can also contact the Veteran’s Corps navigator at van.vetcorps.rep@wsu.edu, or Wanasida can be contacted directly at ryan.wanasida@wsu.edu.

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