Suicide by members of the military is a growing concern. In 2012, more soldiers died at their own hands than in combat. At the Veterans Crisis Line, a national suicide prevention hotline run by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, men and women devote themselves to helping service members through their most difficult times.
At StoryCorps, Elizabeth Olson, (“Sometimes it’s really hard for me to talk to the 19- and 20-year-olds, because, when my kids started, that’s how old they were. And when you have a 19- or 20-year-old who wants to die, that is totally heartbreaking.”), Karin Porch (“I have had the calls: ‘I’ve got a gun to my head. You’ve got 30 seconds, why shouldn’t I pull the trigger?'”), Rich Barham (“I remember, after that phone call, being a little jerky and nervous—going outside, smoking a couple of cigarettes. And then just coming back in and doing my job again.”), and Nelson Peck (“I had PTSD as well, and what I started to realize was my PTSD was triggered by survivor guilt…I was meant to survive to do this, so other veterans could survive.”) discuss calls they have taken and why their work is so meaningful to them.
Originally aired September 14, 2013, on NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday.