Combat boots at Capitol to carry anti-suicide message

Published 10:13 am Wednesday, April 1, 2015

By Mark Brunswick

Minneapolis Star Tribune

MINNEAPOLIS — A group of veterans advocates is planning to bring 23 pairs of combat boots to the State Capitol next week.

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It’s estimated that 23 veterans a day commit suicide, and the boots are intended as an awareness campaign to bring attention to the crisis.

The hope is to place the boot display on the steps of the Capitol every day but they may be moved around within the building. They’ll be on display from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. from April 6 through April 10.

Veterans, non-veteran supporters and Gold Star Families have been working to collect the boots, which many have donated from their own service. Others have been specially purchased for the display.

The number 23, which has sometimes been disputed, represents the estimated 22 vets who commit suicide each day and the one active duty member who is believed to commit suicide every day.

Even though it is usually cited in the context of the recent wars, most of those suicides involved older veterans, who account for the vast majority of the nation’s 22 million former service members. The average age of male veteran suicides was 59.6 years old — older than the average for non-veteran male suicides.

A new study funded by the Army shows the suicide rate for veterans who served in recent wars is much lower than 22 a day. The study, published in the February 2015 Annals of Epidemiology, studied 1.3 million veterans who were discharged between 2001 and 2007.

Between 2001 and 2009, there were 1,650 deployed veteran deaths and 7,703 non-deployed veteran deaths. Of those, 351 were suicides among deployed veterans and 1,517 were suicides among non-deployed veterans, the study found.