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Florida lawmakers push for more to be done in preventing veteran suicide

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Posted at 9:49 PM, Feb 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-24 11:44:15-05

TAMPA, Fla. — One local veteran is making two big pushes he hopes will finally start to stem the tide of veteran suicides.

John Fischetti is a special forces sergeant major and has served in the military for 25 years.

"I lost a lot of friends of mine. I’ve been shot 5 times, blown up a couple of times," said Fischetti.

And Fischetti said that trauma left him struggling physically, emotionally, and mentally, and he was suicidal.

"I didn’t have the tools to deal with the emotions I was dealing with or the lack of emotions I was dealing with. It hit me pretty hard and I started pushing everyone in my life away from me," said Fischetti.

And he’s not alone. In 2019, 600 veterans died of suicide just in Florida alone.

"Tampa Bay is one of the largest veterans populations in the state, if not the nation, and we should be very proud of that but we should also be a national leader in addressing the issues we’re seeing," said Danny Burgess, Florida State Senator (R-20).

Burgess is helping with two big pushes. One of them, SB 1712 will give funding the V.A. to create a suicide prevention pilot program to train those handling veteran benefits claims to recognize former service members in distress and offer crisis counseling.

The other is the SM302 “Recognizing Veterans Suicide” Memorial that the Florida Legislature sent to Congress asking them to fully fund suicide prevention efforts.

Better funding would help more vets have access to programs like SOF Missions, an organization in the Tampa Bay area for veterans and active military members focusing on the holistic treatment of the mind, body, and spirit.

"We provide psychological, physical, social, and spiritual care. Warriors come to us for a one-week intensive, and then provide all the way up to one year with our top-notch, best in the business, providers," said Damon Friedman with SOF Missions.

SOF is a program that Fischetti says helped save his life.

People need to know it's out there because had I not accidentally run into it, I might not be here today," said Fischetti.

For more information about SOF Missions visit: