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Groups partner to help reduce suicide among veterans

<i>WLKY</i><br/>The motorcycle club Exodus Saints partnered with Veterans Club Inc. to raise money for efforts to help reduce the suicide rates of veterans.
The motorcycle club Exodus Saints partnered with Veterans Club Inc. to raise money for efforts to help reduce the suicide rates of veterans.

By Munashe Kwangwari

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    SHELBYVILLE, Kentucky (WLKY) — After fighting the threat of terror abroad, Army veteran Mel Williams returned home to find her fellow military friends fighting a war of their own. She found out nearly 20 vets a day, nationwide, are dying by suicide.

“While we are busy we are okay,” said Williams. “It’s when we are not busy and we slow down, or if we don’t have people around. That’s when things start getting to us.”

Being a member of the Veterans Club Inc. in Shelbyville, she could see firsthand how vets in her community were struggling with isolation. That continued to build up inside her until last September, when she reached a breaking point.

“I told my husband we have to do something for the Veterans Club,” Williams said. “I said we have to give back, we have to get a ride together.”

She and her husband Mike Williams have a motorcycle club called the Exodus Saints. They decided to team up with the Veterans Club Inc. to put on an event called the Red, White and Thunder Motorcycle Ride. They invited vets and community members to join a caravan of bikers traveling to Frankfort to raise awareness for veteran suicide and raise money for help.

“We just figured anything we can do to help them we need to get up and do,” Mike Williams said. “If you can save one life, that’s a good day. If you can save three or four, that’s a great day.”

The event is now in its second year and on Friday more than 100 riders joined in on the event. They were able to raise a little more than $3,100, which is more than double the amount they raised last year. Money that will go straight to the Veterans Club Inc. to help make sure local vets have the resources needed to combat the issue.

According to Veterans Club founder Jeremy Harrell, the event was as successful as he had hoped. He was looking to raise more money because he said this year alone the veteran suicide rate has increased by 20%.

“In a two-week period, we had 12 veterans who called in who were on the verge of committing suicide,” Harrell said. “We can’t lay down on this issue. We recognize veteran suicide does not wait until the end of the pandemic.”

Harrell said not only will the money go toward efforts preventing veteran suicide, but also to the families who have lost a veteran to suicide. He said now that they know what they are capable of, the plan is to make the event bigger and better next year.

“Next year we want three or four hundred riders with us,” Harrell said. “We can’t do it, nor do we want to do it without community involvement.”

According to a report from the Department of Veterans Affairs, the suicide rate among veterans has increased by nearly 50% since 2005.

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