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'Commit to connect': Team Fidelis works to save lives, prevent suicide among veterans

Team Fidelis
Posted at 6:50 AM, Jun 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-14 07:54:05-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — In any year, about 12 million adults in the United States have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

During the month of June, those with Kansas City-based Team Fidelis say they hope you will reach out to a veteran or service member as part of their “Commit To Connect Challenge."

“We’re human beings and we have emotions, good or bad. We want to be connected and we need each other,” said Daniel Brazzell, who helped start Team Fidelis.

The group’s ultimate mission is to save lives and prevent suicide. Brazzell says the group works to achieve that by connecting veterans, service members and their families through camaraderie and support.

In 2021, the United States lost on average of about 17 veterans per day to suicide according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report.

“When we leave combat, we leave, we’re home, but part of us is never home,” Brazzell said.

After spending 10 years in the Marine Corps, Brazzell says he was medically discharged due to PTSD.

“When I got out, I struggled a lot with my PTSD, a lot of suicidal ideation — ended up in the hospital multiple times,” he said.

Brazzell say at one point he created a plan to take his own life.

“On the day that I was supposed to, I was going to, my wife didn’t go to her parents’ house. She stayed, for whatever reason. Obviously, God had a reason. She stayed and we went to lunch and when I was supposed to do it, I didn’t," he said. "When we got home, there was 10 Overland Park cops at my house because my doctor had called.”

He now calls that day a turning point in his life.

“I know I’m not the only one struggling. So how do I help our brothers and sisters? Because that really sucks,” he said.

In the more than five years since Team Fidelis started, Brazzell says the group has grown a network of thousands. This month, they invite you to just make at least one connection, to “commit to connect” to one service member or veteran.

“Just reach out to them. Just say, ‘Hey I was thinking about you, you’re on my heart,' whatever. 'I haven’t talked to you in a long time, how are you doing? What’s going on?’ Just have a conversation,” Brazzell said.

Dr. Nicholas Heinecke, the PTSD Coordinator with the Kansas City VA Medical Center says distancing and detaching from family and friends can be a common symptom of PTSD, so having people reach out can make a big difference.

He gave some suggestions when reaching out to service member or veteran, including not asking for sensitive details like if or how many people someone has killed. Words of affirmation, being yourself and letting people know you are available consistently is a great way to show support.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and National Center for PTSD has resources and information on their website.

The Veterans’ Crisis Line is available 24/7 for veterans and their loved ones. You can call 1-800-273-8255 and press one. You can also just text 838255.