November 10, 2020 Blog

Jordan Waits: Honoring Our Veterans

I joined the Marine Corps in 2010 and served in the foreign Operation Enduring Freedom. To me, Veterans Day is an opportunity to express gratitude to all those who served alongside me and those who served this country before and after my time in the service. As a vet, I know that acknowledgements and expressions of gratitude are important. It means a lot when people recognize my service. But it is my hope, especially now, that we can show gratitude to our veterans through action. Because our veteran community is in crisis.

While I am tremendously proud of my service and the ideals of equality and fairness that it is meant to stand for, not every day for a veteran is an easy day. Most veterans, myself included, have seriously considered ending their life with a personally owned firearm.

An average of 4,200 veterans die by firearm suicide each year—about 11 every day. The suicide rate among veterans is roughly twice as high as the rate among the rest of the American population and it has been rising steadily for more than a decade. 

The causes of suicide are varied and complex. But one thing we know for sure is that access to a gun increases the risk of suicide tremendously. About 70 percent of veterans who die by suicide use a gun. And as we continue to weather the economic hardship and social isolation brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, the risk of suicide grows. 

Learn more about firearm suicide

In a moment of crisis, easy access to a firearm can, and too often does, mean the difference between life and death. But there are simple ways to help make sure that a temporary crisis is not met with a permanent solution. Veterans, and all gun owners, that practice safe storage or take advantage of voluntary waivers or Extreme Risk Protection Orders drastically reduce their chances of self harm with a personally owned firearm. These tools have the power to save lives, without interfering with the rights of those who selflessly served. 

I joined the Marine Corps because I care about my community and that value has never changed. I want to make things better for Americans, my fellow veterans being no exception. Service to your country does not stop when you take off the uniform. That is why I’m proud to work at the Alliance and why I am passionate about doing my part to reduce veteran suicide. Our veterans deserve to be honored with action and to live a fulfilling life in the country that they served.

— Jordan Waits is a Marine Corps Veteran and Advocacy and Chapter Coordinator at the Alliance.