BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — For many, the holidays can be a source of cheer and family fun but for some, this season may be one of the most difficult times of the year for those away from home including military members.
Many Kern County military families have family members deployed during the holiday season and local veteran and jr Vice Commander of Post 97 Veterans of Foreign Wars, Lee Caldwell said it can really affect the mental health of the family, but he has advice for service members and those who want to help.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 45,000 people died by suicide in 2019, that's 1 death every 11 minutes.
It adds that suicide rates are higher than average in veterans. Caldwell believes this can be attributed to many things but said depression and mental health issues are common around the holidays.
“Service members you know are missing out on in-person relationships with the family and the holidays is always a hard time for service members,” said Caldwell.
Caldwell said he himself was deployed for three Christmas’ during his 15 years of service and what he missed most were the simple things.
“Just missing my kids during the holidays missing that time being around the Christmas dinner and the table chatting about what’s going and how they’re doing,” said Caldwell.
Caldwell's advice around this time of the year is to check in not just on those serving but their families as well.
He told 23ABC he knows from experience how much it means when someone reaches out and encourages others to do the same.
“Talk to somebody. Don’t be afraid to talk to somebody if you’re feeling down and mental health could be simple depression that you’re just not feeling right, not saying suicidal, but you could be homesick,” said Caldwell.
This year Caldwell and his fellow members at Post 97 have something extra special planned for servicemen and women during the holiday season.
He said with inflation and the holidays, this year is particularly difficult for them which is why he and the veterans of Foreign Wars Post 97 got together to deliver hundreds of candy canes to the 1114 Christmas party this year.
“I’m grateful that we could do anything we can. I’ve been in their shoes so I know during the Christmas time simple things, as people might say that might not be enough, but it does mean a lot to them anything little thing means the world to them,” said Caldwell.
If you would like to donate gift cards baskets or anything to the National Guard contact Alejandra Cruz via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.