The Jason Foundation – along with Charlie Daniels – are teaming up to promote Guard Your Buddy, a phone app that’s helping the Tennessee National Guard in the prevention of suicide among its members. The app, available 24/7, points Guardsmen find critical life resources, on-demand counseling, and on-call suicide prevention. The Jason Foundation, Inc. (JFI) was founded in 1997 after the tragic suicide of their President/CEO’s youngest son Jason. JFI has now become nationally recognized as a leader in youth suicide awareness and prevention programs. According to GuardYourBuddy.com, on average, 25 soldiers were lost to suicide every month in 2010.
What inspired you to take up this cause?
Of course, it’s the problem we all know exists. We know the heartaches it causes. The Jason Foundation has a proven track record as to teenage suicide. I’m so anxious about this, I believe in this cause.
Have you ever known anyone who was suicidal or actually committed suicide?
No, I have not. I can’t imagine feeling that way. It really has to take a horrible state of mind. You’d have to be in a really dark place.
Why do you think suicides among vets have risen so?
We have to ask what’s going on in their lives? I’m so literally mad at our government. Suicide (with our servicemen) has become pandemic. Our government, our VA should get on that. They should be saying, “Let’s find out what’s happening.”
For those troops who haven’t been to war, it seems like their problems mirror those in civilian society. Is there anything we should be doing for both?
I guess start with acknowledging the problem. They should be saying, “Let’s find out what’s happening.” I travel all around – I don’t care what the New York Times says, people in this country care about our vets. Our media needs to expose what’s going on. People don’t know that (suicide is a pandemic). We need to raise awareness, not just money. Do you know the extent of the numbers is a killer, no pun intended? Let’s get something done! Why aren’t they? I came up during WWII, I was came up to revere veterans and the grace of Almighty God, the U.S. military. We don’t take care of them when they come back. These bureaucratic SOB’s. Should our vets be in the hands of a bureaucracy? Hell no! What hurts our military hurts America.
This is one of the first resources I’ve seen addressing spiritual fitness. Can you speak to how that has helped you overcome difficulties in your life.
I go to a certain church. Follow the same Bible, (go to) a good Bible based church. It pulls you through every difficult situation.
Are any other states picking up the app?
We contacted the Pentagon, they were not interested. It would have cost $5 million, a drop in the bucket for them.
Do you think it’s matter of the old-timers in the military saying, “I toughed it out, so should you”?
Yes, they’re saying “I did it, I’m old school.” But it’s a different world now. It might not be a factor, but in WWII, with the slow transportation back to the States, there was some decompression time. Now, there’s air travel from a war zone and the next day, they’re at a civilian airport. It’s a totally different life, environment, society in a war zone. People don’t stop and think, “What will these kids have when they get back?”