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ABQ VA Plans Inaugural Suicide Prevention Motorcycle Ride

By Circe Olson Woessner

Daily, roughly 20 Veterans, active-duty servicemembers and members of the National Guard and Reserve commit suicide nationwide, and of those men and women, 14 had not received care at a VA.  In New Mexico, the Veteran suicide rate is roughly one every 4 days. About 4 out of 5 are not enrolled with VA. The national suicide rates for male Veterans are about 20% higher than for civilians; for women Veterans, the suicide rate is about twice the rates of civilian women. Veterans (men and women) account for approximately 18% of the suicide deaths in this country and comprise about 14% of the adult population.

A group of VA Staff and community volunteers are working together to change those odds. They’re doing it in an unlikely way: they’ll participate in a  S.A.V.E. Veteransmotorcycle event. “S.AV.E.” is a mnemonic from the VA’s Suicide prevention program and stands for:

S–Signs and symptoms

A – Ask “are you thinking of killing yourself today?”

V – Validate feelings

E – Encourage treatment

This years’ New Mexico ride will take approximately 100 motorcyclists from Albuquerque through Tijeras, Espanola, and Taos, around the “Enchanted Circle,” and end in Angel Fire. At each stop, information on VA enrollment and suicide prevention information will be available to both riders and members of the local community. The American Legion Riders Chapter 22 is coordinating the route.

“Suicide is something, sadly, I have personally experienced: a high school friend committed suicide, and when I was in my early 20s, a good friend took his own life,” said RickyPete, State Road Captain for the American Legion Riders, Chapter 22.

Suicide has also impacted the Legion Riders chapter directly. Their chaplain, a veteran, also committed suicide.

RickyPete remembers, “She always had something hopeful to say. Her prayers always came from her heart. She comforted our riders who were going through hard times and always had a kind word for us. She was always so helpful on the outside, and little did we realize, that she was trying to face her own demons by herself. When we learned of her suicide, it was then that I wanted to get involved, so that maybe I could help just one veteran– just one person–educating and supporting everyone involved in this difficult issue.”

The ride will be on Saturday, October 13, starting at the Albuquerque VA Medical Center with kickstands up at 9:00 am. Stops along the ride will be at the Museum of the American Military Family in Tijeras, the Veterans Memorial in Espanola, Taos CBOC, and gas stations located along the route. There will be a remembrance service on Sunday morning at the Angel Fire Memorial.

For more information/questions about the Ride, volunteer opportunities, or to  donate, please contact Christina Camacho at (505) 265-1711 x 3056.




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PRIDE! LGBTQ+ Military Family Social

For Immediate Release:

PRIDE! LGBTQ+ Military Family Social

The Shared Voices of LGBTQ+ Military, Veterans, Spouses, Brats and Allies.

Richmond, Petersburg, Hopewell, Tri-city area LGBTQ+ Military and military affiliated organizations have joined together to offer the first ever LGBTQ+ Military Family Pride Social on Saturday, September 1, from 7-9 pm. Come out for an evening of socializing, entertainment, speakers and an “open mic”, at Rajun Cajun Seafood, Petersburg, VA.

Multiple organizations including the Museum of the American Military Family Museum, Military Kid Art Project, Trans Veteran Society of Virginia, TheatreLAB, and the Petersburg Pride Committee are coordinating the event, which will be held at DJ’s Rajun Cajun Seafood in Petersburg, a gay owned establishment and the hub of Petersburg Pride.

The first ever Pride! LGBTQ+ Military Family Social, created in conjunction with the two cities celebrating Pride this year, will have entertainment, food, drinks, music, skits, laughs, readings, and personal stories all in honor of the LGBTQ+ Military Family life. “Military Family” from all branches of the military, retired LGBTQ+ Military, current service members, spouses and all dependents, Brats, no matter the age and the allies that support them.

There will be an open-mic and all are encouraged to share LGBTQ+ military family related stories. The stories will be held to a 2-minute maximum of time and must be PG rated. Lora Beldon, founder of Military Kids Art Project and Artist-in-Residence of the Museum of the American Military Family says, “You don’t have to share a story to come and enjoy the evening. The Military Family Museum just released its anthology of LGBTQ+ Military Family in SHOUT! Sharing Our Truth. As a military Brat, I was honored to have contributed a story and artwork, as well as co-edited the anthology. The book will be available for purchase at the event and both Richmond and Petersburg Pride. The publication, along with an accompanying exhibit recently was honored by the American Association of State and Local History’s Albert B. Corey Prize.

Veteran Yessica Gonzalez-Hernandez, a Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention (SHARP) Victim Advocate, and a Petersburg Pride committee member says, “This event is incredibly important! It will be an opportunity to promote inclusion and celebrate the service of LGBTQ+ Service Members and their families.”

To pre-sign up to share a story email Lora Beldon at LKBeldon@hotmail.com, or sign up the night of the event. Space is limited. First come first serve. Also visit the Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/1058871680928195/

The PRIDE! LGBTQ+ Military Family Social Event is open to the public Saturday, September 1, 7-9pm. Location, DJ’s Rajun Cajun Seafood Restaurant. 309 North Sycamore Street, Old Towne Petersburg, Virginia, 23803. http://www.djsrajuncajun.com         804-704-8940

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