Veteran wants to start 24-hour suicide hotline for soldiers


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Veteran wants to start 24-hour suicide hotline for soldiers

By Matt Grant. CREATED Nov 12, 2012

FORT MYERS - For many soldiers the scar or war lingers years after returning home.

It's a war within and a Fort Myers veteran is hoping to bring awareness and help to those who need it most.

Desert storm veteran George Tice is on personal mission to save his fellow soldiers off the battlefield.

"I held a weapon to my head," said Tice, "and I tried to take my own life."

It's been two decades since Tice almost took his own life. Since returning home from war, Tice found himself fighting a new battle - Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD.

"I still have flashbacks and nightmares," said Tice, who is still haunted by his memories. "I don't sleep much at night."

Tice isn't alone. One out eight soldiers who served in Iraq or Afghanistan show signs of PTSD, according to statistics Tice showed Fox 4. Even more alarming, a service member is taking his or her own life every day.

"We're not missing limbs, we're not missing legs," said Tice. "It's something that's within us."

Tice says the suicide rate among soldiers is "climbing each and every day." He blames PTSD.

The Veterans Administration has a national crisis hotline. But Tice says it's more of a "referral service" sending soldiers in need to local VA's that might be closed or understaffed, he said.

That's why Tice is looking to start up his own 24-hour crisis line for southwest Florida soldiers. He wants it staffed with local veterans who can be sent out to meet face-to-face with military members who are in crisis.

"What we'd like to do is put boots on the ground," said Tice, "to help our men and women who are suffering and are thinking about committing suicide."

Dan Ashby, with the National Coalition for Patriots, is looking to partner with Tice. He says the national suicide hotline isn't doing enough for veterans.

"It's not something that really gives them help right then and there when they need it," said Ashby. "Basically sends them somewhere else to search for the help which is not what a suicide hotline needs to be."

Tice is riding his bicycle to raise money and awareness. So far he's clocked over 100 miles collecting donations along the way.

"I think it's great," said Cape Coral soldier Pfc. Corey Kent, who was injured in Afghanistan. "Even if one guy doesn't get the help he needs then the system has failed."

Tice is trying to prevent that. He says it will cost $100,000 to get the call center up and running, which he hopes to make happen sometime next year.

He is looking to cover the cost through grant money and donations.

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Matt Grant