National Missing Children’s Day was May 25th – which was also Memorial Day in the US. I realized that we don’t have a lot of information or focus here on Missing military veterans. With Tricia’s permission, I am hoping to start a discussion here about the increasing numbers of Veterans who are missing in the US. It is estimated that 22 Veterans commit suicide each day. There have been several studies done and the federal government continues to examine that issue. With the most recent data, that number may go up and some sources are already estimating it to be between 23-24 per day. The national average amongst the general population is about 14 suicides per day. But did you know that scores of Veterans have gone missing as well? They go out for a drive or walk off in to the woods and never come back. They leave to travel to a specific destination and never arrive. Many (but not all) of these cases involve some level of diagnosed PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) or TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury). Many of them do result in being found deceased but many are simply never found and some are found and require assistance. Not all are suicidal. Some are just walking away from their lives, some need a break, some are in distress but not a danger to themselves, some need medical assistance. One of the things that stands out to me about these cases is that so many of them share similar circumstances of how the Veteran goes missing. They don’t seem like obviously planned disappearances – whether they are suicidal or not. They are not abducted, but they are endangered and at risk. There are special factors that make this group more vulnerable than the average population. In addition to PTSD & TBI, homelessness, unemployment, chronic pain, and clinical depression rates are higher for Veterans. To date, I have been unable to find a single vetted or official clearinghouse for these missing Veterans cases. NamUs is run by the Department of Justice yet they do not have a dedicated field in their form to indicate if the missing person is a Veteran. The only way to gather that information from their site is to use a variety of search terms including PTSD, TBI, Veteran, and Military. These keywords only produce results if the person compiling the NamUs profile data enters it. There are a couple of non-profits who have begun an effort to bring awareness about missing Veterans and a couple of Facebook pages dedicated to the effort but they are all relatively small. The only one that even comes up with a Google search of “Missing Veterans” is www.missingveterans.com – which means that anyone looking for these resources may have a hard time finding them. www.missingveterans.org is a 501c(3)non-profit that has a very active Facebook page, generates content, and has a corresponding website that has an easily searchable listing of missing Veterans (as well as a section for those who have been found). I, personally, find it to be a well laid out page and their content is very well written. They seem to the only organization that fills the niche of serving as a clearinghouse. US Military Missing – LostnMissing, Inc https://www.facebook.com/MilitaryLostnmissing?fref=nf is operated by LostnMissing, Inc, a 501c3 non-profit. While they do not focus exclusively on veterans missing in the US, and they are not optimized for search engines to find them readily, they do have a very active Facebook page and a whole section dedicated to missing Veterans. They also have a lot of information and guidance for families on how to handle reporting and searching for their missing Veteran. Another Facebook page, Missing Veteran Alert, https://www.facebook.com/MissingVeteranAlert is set us as a “Community” page and does not have an associated website nor non-profit status, but again, they do appear to have an active page. Warfighter: Missing at Home has a Facebook page and website - https://www.facebook.com/missingathome?fref=nf and www.missingathome.com that includes missing Veterans as a portion of their mission but offers other assistance as well. Their website states that they have applied for state non-profit status but does not declare them to be a 501c(3) or other designation. Their website is for data entry only – they do not offer a database or repository for missing cases but post them to their Facebook page. (Not to impugn this organization at all, but to be clear, they do not appear to have a non-profit status yet and I would be reticent to recommend anyone enter personal data in to a blind web form such as they provide. My opinion only.) Yet, if you search any (all) of these sites and cross reference, you will find that none of them are complete. And if you search Facebook for various terms, there are many, many families who have created their own pages to help focus their search for their loved ones. And nowhere have I found any real data on the number of Veterans reported missing each year by their families. I am not a bona fide expert in this field. My views are my opinion. I have an education in Behavioral and Social Science. My perspective comes from working with the active duty population for over 15 years (as a civilian), and their families, in social service related programs as well as working with disabled veterans and their caregivers. As a military dependent all but 7 months of my life, I have a keen interest in this population. I will post some specific case information in a separate post and also some articles that help give this issue some context. I invite any one with more insight and information to post and anyone with questions to ask away. I only ask, respectfully, that the discussion be focused on the Veterans and not become a political debate or a discussion on the merits of war, etc. (Edited to add: Yes, there are a couple of other groups on FB. I only linked to groups that appear to be consistently and currently active. There are also a couple of groups that are collecting monetary donations and have yet to clarify their status, so I did not link to them).