SPOKANE, Wash. - The VA reports around 22 veterans commit suicide every day, but Air Force veteran Chris Ford is working with the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America to help change that.
Ford lives in Coeur d'Alene and volunteers at the Veterans of Foreign Wars. His Air Force service took him all over the world. Things haven't been perfect since he's been out but he said he's fortunate.
Others have had a far more difficult time adjusting to life in the civilian world, people like Jed Zillmer who, just last month, was shot and killed by police in Spokane Valley. A veteran and former Army sniper, Zillmer couldn't overcome the PTSD symptoms he was facing.
If you haven't been where veterans like Ford and Zillmer have been, it's almost impossible to truly understand.
"You actually get out there and you fire your weapon and you rock and roll and you do everything you need to do and it's real," Ford said.
A ruptured cochlea ended Ford's Air Force career. When he got out he went through what he calls a very insufficient transition process.
"Five days. you know, they give you a five day class to get out of the military, welcome to your transition assistance program," he said.
Ford was lucky, with a supportive wife and family, but the dramatic change in lifestyle took its toll.
"I have walked a mile in these guys' shoes, I have been through depression, I have been through what am I going to do with my life," Ford said.
Now he is fighting for people that don't have the means to fight for themselves. He was invited by the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America to 'Storm the Hill' in Washington D.C. next week with a simple message for lawmakers.
"Congress needs to step up and do more," Ford said.
He knows there is no easy fix but more needs to be done to provide mental healthcare for our nation's combat veterans, as well as helping all veterans make a successful transition to life back here in the world.