Editorial: Honoring veterans

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New Mexicans, including those from Taos County, have served their country by the thousands over generations.

Some of the wars they served in were ill-advised and unnecessary, but whether they agreed or not, these men and women served honorably. They deserve recognition and thanks.

In 2015, there were an estimated 3,150 veterans in Taos County, according to the American Community Survey of the U.S. Census.

That’s nearly 10 percent of the county’s estimated 33,065 population.

More than 100 of the veterans are women.

And nearly a third of the county’s veterans have a disability related to their military service.

Most of them are Vietnam-era veterans, but hundreds still living also served in WWII, the Korean and Gulf Wars. The estimate doesn’t account for those who have served in the Afghanistan or Iraqi conflicts or many other pockets of the world with the United States armed forces.

On Saturday, the service of all veterans will be honored from Questa to Angel Fire. At Taos Pueblo, a particularly special ceremony will begin at 9 a.m., as pueblo officials and veterans unveil the Taos Pueblo Veterans Memorial. It was a five-year labor of love led by Vietnam vet John Romero, who was recently honored as one of our Unsung Heroes.

Gathering and honoring veterans publicly is a way to ease their internal isolation, brought about by the events they’ve experienced that only fellow vets can completely understand.

Left unaddressed, that isolation can lead to depression, anger and the high rate of suicide seen among veterans. Helping our warriors feel less alone is key to helping them want to live. Remember to honor and help our valorous friends and neighbors, every day, not just Veterans Day.

Suicide — a tough conversation

In the last four weeks, at least five adults in the Taos area have taken their lives. Only one was not from Taos, apparently a visitor who drove to the Rio Grande Gorge bridge to end their life Monday (Nov. 6).

Until this editorial, The Taos News has not written about any of these tragic deaths. Our silence prompted readers via social media, emails and phone message to ask why we weren’t writing about these incidents.

We knew about each one. We knew some of the sad details. We chose not to write about them.

As a rule, we don’t write about suicides, unless the person is a known public figure or there is some other extenuating reason. In part, this is to honor the privacy of the victim’s family. In part, it is to not contribute to a perception that if we write about suicide, it encourages other people to take their own life. Beyond publishing obituaries, we don’t cover natural deaths on a regular basis, either. Why should suicide be different, unless it’s to prompt a productive community conversation?

We have written about suicide when there are so many in a row it becomes a disturbing pattern. Last year, after several teenagers had killed themselves over a period of months, this newspaper analyzed the trend and wrote a story in order to encourage dialogue and action. Some of the families wanted the story in hopes of raising awareness and preventing more deaths.

Now, five adults in month is a lot of people in a short amount of time in a small rural county. It is a trend, and one which calls again for community engagement, dialogue and the ongoing search for ways to prevent the tragedies.

Never talking, or writing, about suicide does nothing to prevent it from happening. We believe we must talk about it in a way that supports families and tries to prevent people from feeling this last act is their only choice. We will not write about suicide as entertainment for gawkers and gossipers. Instead, we will cover community dialogue on this tragedy, and spotlight efforts to prevent it.

Do we write about suicide or stay silent? The decision is never easy.  We aim, with our coverage, to help prevent, not encourage this terrible trend.

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