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A Veterans Day Message from Chris Swonger

Veterans Day is a day set aside every year on November 11th to honor the people who preserve our freedom and will sacrifice anything to do so. These brave men and women will do, and have done, anything and everything to defend our country. The debt of gratitude we owe them is deep, and as CEO of and the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, I have made honoring and helping veterans a top priority.

Veterans Day is a very meaningful day for my family. Both of my grandfathers served in the United States Army. One was a World War I veteran. My father was a 32-year veteran in the United States Air Force and served in the Korean War. My brother served in the United States Navy for three years and my nephew served in the United States Marines and is a veteran of the Iraq conflict. My family knows how deployments affect servicemen and women and their families.

A member of our family is on deployment through the end of the year. Our Executive Director, Dr. Ben Nordstrom, is an addiction psychiatrist in the U.S. Army Reserves and we are especially grateful for his service on the very issues we work on each day. 

One harsh reality of the selfless service of our nation’s veterans is that many come home with physical or emotional trauma (or both) that may cause depression or thoughts of suicide. The suicide rate has increased by more than 25 percent in the last decade, yet only about half of returning veterans who need treatment for mental health issues seek care. That must change because we are losing too many veterans to trauma.

What’s more, according to Justice for Vets, one in five veterans has symptoms of a mental health disorder or cognitive impairment. Research shows a link between substance use and combat-related mental illness. Left untreated, mental health disorders common among veterans can directly lead to involvement in the criminal justice system.

I am thrilled to share with you that we have teamed up with the State of Texas to highlight a new resource to help veterans – The Texas Veterans App. It’s available for free and contains the following features:

  • A 24-hour crisis hotline with trained intervention counselors to deal specifically with veteran suicides
  • A hotline for Women’s Veteran issues that connects users to programs and resources specific to women veterans and their needs
  • A Texas Veterans Hotline that connects veterans and their family members with a military veteran peer network and other resources in their local community
  • A Texas Veterans Portal that connects the smartphone to an online resource listing veteran benefits provided in Texas

We are excited about the Texas Veterans App and the help it can provide to veterans and to first responders who have little choice but to arrest veterans in crisis or let them go. This app gives them another choice by delivering a resource to help veterans. The app could be replicated for use by other states and Texas is happy to share it with other states to help as many veterans as possible.

We are also proud supporters of Veterans Courts. This collaborative model is very similar to DWI courts and strives to rehabilitate the offender. Veterans Courts provide holistic approaches, including peer mentoring, to get veterans the help and services they need.

This Veterans day, please take time to remember the immense sacrifices that the men and women who have served and are serving our country have made for us. Take some time today to help a veteran in need.  Help us fill the gap by downloading and sharing the Texas Veterans App! And reach out to the veterans you know today. Thank them, tell them you are proud of them and all they have done for our country.


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