Program stoppping OK vet suicides
The Oklahoma veterans’ suicide rate has doubled almost every year since 2008 and a local mother is trying to stop that. This year more than 70 veterans have killed themselves. 25 percent of state suicides are veterans. The state is on track to repeat those same numbers as the year before.
Mary Ligon’s son, Cpl. Daniel Ligon took his own life in 2007 when he was just 24-years-old. He had returned from deployment in Iraq. His mother was certain if he had had an outlet to talk about his experiences he might have lived. Two years ago she started a local non-profit 501c3 organization called, Coffee Bunker SOS (Serving Our Service members). It’s a group of veterans who get together a few times a week at the Southern Hills Baptist Church and share their thoughts.
One local veteran, 34-year-old Trevor Barger, has been attending the meetings since they’ve started. His squad leader, who happened to be his best friend, killed himself in February of 1997. In the last 15 years, Barger still feels guilty.
“They told me to go get him because he wasn’t where he was suppose to be and I went and found him,” said Barger.
Even after dozens of Coffee Bunker meetings and a year of counseling he will never forget the pain.
“I went numb,” said Barger. “I didn't know what to think, didn't know what to do. You feel guilty. It never leaves. “You prepare for going into combat. You prepare for fighting. They train you for all that stuff but that’s not what they train you for.”
He connected to Ligon at the Coffee Bunker meetings after hearing at the first meeting why she started the program. Her losing her son to suicide made him feel like he could relate to her pain.
“They don't have any where to socialize,” said Barger, explaining how hard it is for veterans when they return home. “They sit at home and get down and depressed and it gives them a place to get out of the house.”
Barger said people ask him inappropriate things all the time when he is home. They ask him things that a veteran knows no one should ever ask a veteran.
“Did you shoot anybody?” said Barger. “Did you kill anybody? I get asked that all the time. Vets get asked that a lot and that’s one of the biggest things vets aren’t going to answer. They're not."
Barger wants to see more programs like the Coffee Bunker establish themselves all over the country. He prays for those who have already lost someone and prays for those who are returning home.
“It's one of the worst feelings in the world to lose someone like that,” said Barger.
The Coffee Bunker SOS meets Mondays and Thursdays at 7:00-100 p.m. and Saturdays from 7:00-11:00 p.m. The temporary location is at 56th Place and Lewis in the rear of the Southern Baptist Hills Church building.
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