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Group fights military suicides with peer counseling

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In June a record 38 soldiers took their lives. Just in Hays County recently, four veterans killed themselves.

The number of suicides weighs heavy on Sean Hanna and Terry McDowell. Both are vets and they work with returning vets and both are not surprised by what's happening.

"There's this non-existent model that's issued to us in boot camp that no one can ever live up to and that becomes the standard we judge ourselves against and it's the judgment that threatens their life," said Hanna.

He says vets were trained and conditioned to be super-human. Impervious to pain, self sufficient, quick to violence, but not needy, which is perceived as weak and a threat to buddies on the battlefield.

Terry McDowell has seen first-hand this scenario play out all too often once the vet returns home and it's painful to watch.

"It's intense because you can feel their pain and sometimes they're not ready," said McDowell.

They are not ready to move beyond their military training.

"They know how to fight and complete the mission, but they don't know how to take charge of their life when they get back. What worked there doesn't work in the civilian area. You have to re-create your identity "I'm not a soldier. I'm not at war anymore." so you have to re-purpose yourself," said McDowell.

McDowell and the Military Veterans Peer Network try to help veterans by connecting vet to vet and then try to connect vets back to their families, friends and their communities.

"You find something that clicks. I don't care if it's a pow wow, you try it...and be open to change," said McDowell.

Hanna beyond the work they do at the Samaritan Center. He says it takes the local community and its leaders to step up and recognize the problem and try to reach out. But he also says it's many times the vet who needs to make the first move.

"Each individual has to find their own path to get back. Since we don't have a mass conditioning program to make warriors back into vets, it doesn't exist," said Hanna.

McDowell says many times vets in trouble won't reach out to anyone, but their families will. If you know someone who might be in trouble you can reach Terry McDowell for a helping hand.

For more information visit Military Veteran Peer Network or contact Terry McDowell at

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