(WHTM) — A continued national problem is the high rate of suicide among military veterans. Ahead of Memorial Day and in honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, abc27 checked in with Midstate veterans trying to bring that number down.

After three combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, Army veteran Cory Angell struggled.

“I found myself coming home to nothing familiar, Angell, who now serves as communications director of the VFW in Pennsylvania, said. “There were all these red flags, I wasn’t doing well.”

The Army connected him with the right resources.

“I got some help there and it made a difference,” Angell said, but he knows many who were not so lucky.

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“We all know, have a friend or acquaintance that committed suicide,” he said. “It really does leave people in a wake that’s tragic.”

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, 270 veterans in Pennsylvania committed suicide in 2019. That accounts for 15 percent of all suicides in the state the same year.

“The problem’s still getting worse,” Army Reserve intelligence officer Darrell Owens said.

Owens works with the national nonprofit America’s Warrior Partnership, a group focused on preventing veteran suicide.

“We go in, and we connect veterans’ resources on the ground,” he said.

Mental health is one of many issues veterans face when returning from service.

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“How do I find a job, how do I write a resume, how do I wear a suit and not a uniform?” Owens said.

Owens said America’s Warrior Partnership ties together resources in a community into a network to give veterans one place to go for all their needs.

“It’s about putting together and improving the overall wellbeing, the holistic nature of the veteran itself,” he said.

Angell said he encourages veterans to enroll in the VA and take advantage of those benefits, including mental health resources. However, he also said other groups like the VFW can help veterans connect with each other.

“There’s nothing like veterans helping veterans,” he said. “There’s a kinship, there’s something that we share.”

Owens said veterans do need options beyond the VA, which has been plagued by backlogs.

“We’ve heard a lot of horror stories so far from veterans who’ve gone to the VA, especially recently, for mental health appointments, and they haven’t been able to get them. They’ve been put on long waitlists,” he said.

With thousands of veterans committing suicide every year, every resource matters.

“Even one’s too many, but 6,000 is, we can do better,” Owens said.

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