Hassan, Pappas promote Green Alert idea

Axel Valentin, a Marine Corps veteran, worked as a social worker and joined U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan and Rep. Chris Pappas, both D-N.H., during a virtual discussion Monday about creating a Green Alert program to more quickly find missing veterans. 

CONCORD — A ‘Green Alert’ system to mobilize the public to help find a missing veteran would help deal with an epidemic of suicides among returning servicemen and women, according to U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan and Rep. Chris Pappas, both D-N.H.

The pair hosted a virtual discussion Monday about this proposal each is offering during this congressional session with bipartisan support on Capitol Hill.

“We do need to intervene in those moments to save a life so the veteran can choose the best way forward,” Hassan said.

Pappas said the legislation would form a commission to identify “Best Practices” so the alerts can be tailored to each state’s needs.

“This is an innovative solution. The moment is now, and I think this does go hand in glove with some other measures we’ll be taking up,” Pappas said.

The concept is to create an urgent notice to rescue veterans along the lines of the federal Amber Alerts issued for missing children and the Silver Alerts to help find senior citizens.

Several veterans, human service professionals and survivors praised the idea Hassan first proposed last year with Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, who is a former combat veteran.

Recognizing the signs

Jo-Ann Clark of Stratham turned the tragic 2010 suicide of her son, Chris Journeau, into a service pet adoption drive that’s attracted national attention.

“I was not aware of the signs and symptoms of PTSD (Post Traumatic-Stress Disorder); I was making excuses for what he was going through without realizing it was a cry for help until it was too late,” Clark said.

Chris’s Pets for Vets has paid for the adoption of 400 pets over its six-year history, Clark said.

Axel Valentin of Salem was a Marine Corps sergeant who retired with mental health issues and went back to school to become a social worker.

“The reintegration process is very hard for everyone,” Valentin said.

Seth L. Gahr runs the peer support unit at the New Hampshire State Police and 130 among the state law enforcement ranks are veterans.

“We change the dynamics of their lives all the time,” Gahr said.

Gregory d’Arbonne said services for veterans have improved dramatically since he retired from the Army in 1999.

“A good portion of the suicides are by veterans who are over 50 years old,” d’Arbonne said.

“My own father at 92; he refuses to go to the VA because he only knows what it used to be.”

Hassan was recently named to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, while Pappas got a seat on the House counterpart panel soon after he first won election in 2018. “This is a common sense step we can take,” Hassan added.