The trick to writing anything, I’ve decided, is to know what the first sentence is going to be. Once you have that written in your mind, all the other stuff – essentially justifying that first sentence – falls right in line.

So you stare at the wall for seconds, minutes maybe in an extreme case, get that string of words lined out in your head and commence to typing. (I’d like to say “… commence to typing as we say in the trade,” but I’ve never heard anyone say that.)

This week, for this column, not quite as easy as I’d like. It’s not that the topic isn’t important, in fact it’s a lot, a whole lot, more important than a lot of things, but it’s a topic not served by being flip or humorous or any of those other almost-clever things. No sense going with a catchy first sentence, better to just lay it out there and get on to the discussion.

Veteran suicide is a serious issue.

I’m like everybody else, I knew the topic “veteran suicide” existed and meant something, but, you know, the whole world’s going around out there, so it was easy to more-or-less walk past the topic for more immediate news coverage, government meetings, grants granted, appointments, compliance, newspaper stuff.

And I’m doing some newspaper stuff at the VA in Conway a few weeks ago. Vaccines, people were getting vaccinated, Sen. John Boozman was there making a visit, and reporter-boy was on-hand, working.

And comes the time for the conference room and questions from the press. Again, another day at the office. But it was a small enough event, no television cameras, so it was easier to have a conversation. The VA was well represented, the senator, as is the nature of his game, was in a talking mood, and that’s what we did, we talked, discussed, reviewed the affairs of the day.

So yeah, vaccines are important and all, but ...

It is estimated, I find out, that 22 veterans a day commit suicide. Stop. Read that again. At the time hearing this it was a jaw-dropping figure and now, weeks later, remains so.

I’m not going to bore you with a tear-strewn recounting of what our veterans mean to us (as the orchestral violins swell in the background). You’re the sort of person who reads newspaper columns, you’ve got a decent handle on this sort of thing. What I’m struck by, however, is in this era of Rambo wannabe poseurs clogging up every conversation (I am apparently the only Vietnam-era airplane mechanic; everyone else was in special forces parachuting into China or whatever) we have this problem: A real issue reflecting a real need demanding real action.

Let’s start here: Resources exist, lots of resources.

If you have a problem and need to talk, veteran or no, the national hotline number is 800-273-8255. Just go ahead and call. People – this is the important part – want to help and are there to help and can help.

You’re a vet, want to talk to someone? The same number, it’s the same number.

Don’t want to talk but want to reach out? No prob. Text 838255, or online chat or

Groups exist, organizations exist, help exists. You exist. Whatever you got, whatever’s chewing at you, all of us want to help you work through it. I want to help. Me, I’m some newspaper guy out in the country and I’m here for you.

So there’s your first sentence, the one where you call or reach out and just, hey, “I need to talk.” No sense going with a catchy first sentence, better to just lay it out there and get on to the discussion.

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