Valley veteran speaks out as new support program develops

Posted at 6:26 PM, Mar 15, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-15 22:31:48-04

Some veterans struggle after coming home from war, but not with physical wounds. They have scars in their mind.

It's a problem across the country, but veteran suicides are happening far more in the Valley. In one year alone, 259 Arizona veterans took their own life.

This week, our own government leaders are in Washington, D.C. trying to develop a plan to make this stop, to protect the people who protect us. 

"I don't think I had grasped what I had really signed up for," said Adrian Romero, a veteran now back home and living in Phoenix. 

Adrian was just two weeks out of high school when he joined the Marines in 2000. His own mother told him not to.

"I chose on my own to sign my papers and now I see what she was trying to prevent me from," said Adrian. 

For the next four years, Adrian would serve his country. Seven months were in Iraq.

He says it's hard to process watching a friend, a fellow soldier, die in battle and not be able grieve their loss because you're afraid for your own life.

"Once your life has been threatened one time, you're different," said Adrian. "When your life is threatened multiple times, you stay in a constant state of fear, so that's kind of what I deal with daily."

Adrian was diagnosed with PTSD, but denied it for years. He even thought about taking his own life.

Adrian is far from alone.

According to the VA, in 2014, 259 veterans took their own life in Arizona alone. The suicide rate is especially high in Maricopa County. About 54 per 100,000. The national average 38 per 100,000.

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton says the numbers are shocking.

"I don't know why. I don't think anybody knows why," said Mayor Stanton. "But we have to find out."

The Mayor's Office, along with 21 other people, are part of a new inter-agency team to increase veteran support and reduce suicides in the county and Arizona.

The VA says Phoenix could lead the way nationally with its plan.