CHARLESTON, W.VA. (WOWK) – 22 – That’s the average number of veteran suicides that happen each and every day in the U.S.

1,100 – That’s the number of programs the VA has offered in the last 10 years for veterans suffering from PTSD and suicide. 

And it appears the problem is getting worse – not better. In December 2018, a top VA official admitted higher suicide rates spiked in the last two years.

For veterans who suffer from trauma from military service like James Straughter of Charleston, West Virginia, traditional treatment through various therapies were not enough.

Just a few years ago, he learned about spiritual healing sessions offered at the VA hospital in Huntington (now the Hershel Woody Williams VA Medical Center). The sessions work for him, but there’s a catch. The program called “Moral Injury” program is offered only as an option. Veterans must agree to them by filling out a questionnaire. 

Chaplain Randy White runs the program and says it’s helping the veterans in his sessions.
“It’s made a measurable difference in their lives.” 

“We enter their journey … where they’re let us in to try and help them forgive themselves and to heal,” said Chaplain Randy White.

Sraughter agrees and is perplexed that this program is just an option and why it isn’t promoted more. 

“I don’t know why they’re not providing this more … spirituality aspect … the ball was dropped somewhere,” wondered Straughter. 

Not waiting on the VA

The non-profit group SOF Missions is not waiting on the VA to make it a higher priority to promote a Higher Power.

The group’s president Dr. Damon Friedman served multiple combat tours of duty and suffers from his own trauma.

Friedman claims that faith-based groups like his are saving the lives of veterans who face deep despair and depression.

SOF Missions offers a holistic faith-based approach to troubled service members and their families to heal the mind, body, and soul. 

“One of the things SOF Missions does that the majority of other programs don’t, we really make sure that the spiritual pillar is provided spiritual fitness is just as important as physical fitness and psychological fitness in order for veterans to find their path to wellness,” said Friedman.  

There are other groups that offer faith-based programs for veterans. Friedman points to the success of the group Mighty Oaks Warriors saying that 2,000 troubled veterans who suffered from suicidal tendencies and PTSD are alive today because of the program.

SOF Missions released a film late in 2018 entitled Surrender Only To One which follows six combat veterans who eventually learned to build resilience and reduce depression and suicide through faith.

The group claims the program is so successful, the VA is now interested. 

“We’re in a pilot program where we are starting to receive referrals where we are seeing a few at a time in the VA system,” said Friedman.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached by calling 1-800-273-8255. The 
Veterans Crisis Line can be reached by calling 1-800-273-8255, and the White House VA Hotline can be reached by calling 1-855-948-2311.