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Three more veterans commit suicide at VA facilities in five-day span


Tragic losses shine a spotlight on high suicide rates among those who served

Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Three veterans took their own lives at separate Veterans Affairs facilities within a five-day span earlier this month, putting a renewed spotlight on the high suicide rates among former service members.

What are the details?

On April 5, 29-year-old Gary Pressley fatally shot himself in the chest while in a vehicle parked outside the Carl Vinson VA Medical Center in Dublin, Georgia, WMAZ-TV reported. Pressley's mother said her son was tormented by all of the devastation he saw while helping with search and rescue in Haiti, after a 2010 earthquake killed roughly 250,000 people.

Pressley was medically discharged from the Navy in 2012 following a bad car accident, and thereafter, his mother said, "It was just a battle with the medication, the doctors, and just, I watched him cry, because he couldn't get the help he needed."

Pressley reportedly told his girlfriend he planned to take his own life in the parking lot of the Dublin VA "so somebody can pay attention to what's happening, so other vets do not have to go through this." But by the time his sister found out his intentions and alerted authorities, it was too late.

The next day, just 140 miles away, 68-year-old Olen Hancock shot himself outside the main entrance of Atlanta VA Medical Center in Decatur, Georgia. According to WSB-TV, Hancock had been seen pacing in the lobby of the facility right before he walked out and took his own life.

A third veteran committed suicide at a clinic in Austin, Texas, on April 9. The unidentified victim shot himself in front of hundreds of people in the first-floor waiting room, KXAN-TV reported.

Anything else?

Chairman of the House Committee on Veteran's Affairs Mark Takano (D-Calif.) released a statement in response to the recent deaths, saying in part, "Every new instance of veteran suicide showcases a barrier to access, but with three incidents on VA property in just five days, and six this year alone, it's critical we do more to stop this epidemic."

Takano added, "All Americans have a role to play in reducing veteran suicide, and the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs is going to make this issue a top priority."

According to Fox News, the rate of suicide among veterans is 1.5 times higher than Americans who have not served. We lose roughly 20 veterans each day to self-inflicted death.

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