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Santa Maria “Band of Brothers” takes team effort for veterans’ mental health support

SANTA MARIA, Calif – Steve Baird is the co-founder of the Band Of Brothers - a group dedicated to serving veterans up and down the coast.

What started as a softball get together is now a billiards league, bowling team and a stability home called “La Casa De Flores,” after the group renovated the home back in 2018. 

Baird shared his experience about the value of veteran support, saying, "Ten years ago, I was the veteran that was needing help. I was a suicidal vet and had another veteran step forward to help me."

Last November, the University of Duke And Alabama discovered 44 veterans die every day by suicide. Numbers also show 20 consecutive years with 6,000+ veterans suicides – some as violent as drinking themselves to death, drugs and overdose. 125,000 veterans have died by suicide since 2001. 

Veteran mental health expert, Matthew “Whiz” Buckley, said transitioning back into society can be a challenge. “You kind of lose that sense of purpose and and community and camaraderie when you transition out of the military into the civilian world. And you're kind of you're kind of left alone to figure it out. And that's when a lot of vets start sliding into alcohol or drugs or just other other bad stuff.”

Buckley founded the “No Fallen Hero Foundation” after losing a close friend. “I lost three F-18 fighter pilot brothers to suicide," said Buckley. "One of them was a groomsman in my wedding. I don't know what I'm going to do, but I've got to do something to stop veteran suicide.”

Baird recalled a night that the Band of Brothers saved a life, "There's been a time when we invited somebody was just sitting in the stands. I was just a new person, a new face sitting in the stands at a softball game, invited him to come down and be in the dugout with us and then to find out a year later that that was the night he was going to go take his life.”

Both veterans have tips for showing your support.

Buckley said, "It's awesome as the veteran, when I when I see my fellow Americans say, oh, you're a veteran, thank you for your service, do me a favor going forward. Put a comma at the end of that. Thank you for your service, comma. Are you good? That little addition to that sentence could save a life.”

Baird added, "Reach out to say hello and make a friend because you could be a great friend to that person and that person could be a great friend to you.”

Article Topic Follows: Santa Maria - Lompoc - North County
mental health

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