“The only thing that stopped me was the fact that I thought that putting that round in the chamber was going to wake my wife up,” recalls veteran Justin Miller. Miller did not become a statistic. Others did. About 20 veterans commit suicide every day; that’s one lost life almost every hour, every day. And the loss can be greater than an individual tragedy. In the wake of a suicide are family members and friends who must bear the grief.
And this is not business as usual. Veteran suicides have doubled in the last fifteen years.
Miller did not become a number because “I was suicidal and a brother contacted me.” Miller had a lifeline. He came to believe that the key to stopping this epidemic is connecting people to people who care. Every suicide, Miller argues, could be prevented.
Miller cofounded a non-profit called Objective Zero. “Objective Zero is dedicated to eliminating veteran suicide,” he declared. “Our mission is not to reduce the number of veteran suicides. Our mission is to ZERO it out. Objective Zero will connect veterans to the resources and the caring community they need.”
The fastest, easiest, and most anonymous way to connect veterans in need, Miller and Objective Zero decided, is online. They partnered in developing the Objective Zero App to connect veterans and save lives. Launching in June 2017, the mobile application will instantly connect veterans to suicide prevention resources and a community of fellow veterans, service members, and counselors.
There are three big challenges in getting any veteran service group off the ground:
- Contact—reaching out to veterans and identifying their needs;
- Comradeship—building peer-to-peer support and mentoring in assistance programs; and
- Community—serving veterans and their families where they live and work, teaming with veterans and their families for long-term, sustained support with collaboration and clearinghouse activities that create a “one-stop shop” for assistance while fostering collaboration among those reaching out to veterans.
The Objective Zero App is designed to address all three of these challenges.
There are a number of other worthy efforts out there working to reduce the tragedy of veteran suicide. The Department of Veterans affairs catalogs all kinds of resources that are available. The Objective Zero App promises to be an important new response in tackling a serious national problem.
Objective Zero, run by an all-volunteer core of veterans, is completing its first fundraising campaign to develop and deliver the Objective Zero App. The true definition of a non-profit, 100 percent of every cent they collect or donate themselves goes to the project. None of the development takes a dime in salary.
“I’m living proof that Objective Zero is going to work,” Miller reminds. He is committed to delivering an app that will allow someone to reach others the way someone reached out to him. “Hit one button,” Miller promises, “and know that I would be anonymously connected to another veteran who has lived, walked, breathed, tasted the same things—it’s going to instantly build camaraderie.”