A Springfield organization, called The Warrior’s Journey, says the secret sauce in its mission is its battle buddy system. More than 200 combat veterans are working as “warrior connectors” to help the military community heal invisible wounds.

President and CEO, Kevin Weaver, said its focus is on crisis prevention and intervention.

Missouri Capitol in Jefferson City

“Suicide ideation individuals – over 1,300 individuals have come to us since 2016. I’m happy to tell you that we’re thankful that right now we have a 100% success rate. We’ve not lost one individual who’s connected with our program,” he told a Missouri House committee Wednesday.

U.S. Census data says Missouri has more than 400,000 military veterans. The committee is searching for ways to help Missouri’s veterans with their mental health wounds and those battling thoughts of suicide. Missouri has one of the highest veteran suicide rates in the country – 188 in 2019.

Weaver told the committee the “warriors” connect active-duty military members, veterans and their families with options and resources available. Walking in the combat boots of our military community takes a village to help overcome the challenges they take on. The Warrior’s Journey works with about 70 organizations to pull off this work.

Weaver said the organization helps each person for as long as they say they need its help.

“We need warriors that can carry out their jobs in combat,” he said. “The government has gotten really, really good at physical resilience, but its internal battles are too often, that’s where they’re failing is the internal side of things. They’re physically fit – the best-equipped fighters in the world. There’s no doubt, but they come home broken.”

Lt. Col. Stuart “Scar” Sullivan, a retiring Whiteman Air Force Base B2 bomber pilot, told the committee that the Missouri military installation had the highest suicide rate of any U.S. military base in 2018.

“It’s very personal to me,” he said. “It’s very real. It happens – a lot of invisible wounds that people just don’t see.”

He touted the work of The Warrior’s Journey. Sullivan and the organization work together to do what he calls “heart surgery”, to give veterans healing instead of putting a band-aid on the invisible battle wounds.

They have partnered to save at least three lives under his command.

Missourinet has requested the base’s suicide rate and will update this story when that figure becomes available.

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