Three U.S. military veterans have taken their own lives within five days of one another at VA facilities in Georgia and Texas.
29-year-old Gary Pressley was discovered inside a car in the parking lot of Carl Vinson VA Medical Center in Dublin, Georgia on April 5.
Pressley was found with a gunshot wound to his chest. He was pronounced dead at 8.45pm, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
He had been medically discharged in 2012 after a car accident but had been struggling with his mental health ever since.
Concerned family members, including his mother, Machelle Wilson, told WMAZ-TV that his sister called the VA to tell them her brother was threatening suicide.
Her call came just moments before he ended up taking his own life.
‘He told his girlfriend he was going to do it in the parking lot, so they could find his body, so somebody can pay attention to what’s happening, so other vets do not have to go through this,’ she told the television station.
Another suicide happened the following day, this time in Decatur, Georgia.
68-year-old Olen Hancock of Alpharetta killed himself outside the Atlanta VA Medical Center.
Hancock was spotted earlier in the day pacing around the lobby of the building before going outside and shooting himself, according to WSB-TV.
Three days later a third suicide occurred in Austin, Texas.
A veteran who has not yet been named shot himself in front of hundreds of people in the waiting room of a VA Clinic.
The entire building was shut down as a result of the incident according to KXAN.
‘All of a sudden, over the intercom, they have this statement about everyone must clear the building including staff, so it was a little surprising,’ Ken Walker told the station.
Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., the chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, has called the deaths ‘unacceptable and devastating.’
‘While we have taken a number of steps to address and prevent veteran suicide, these tragic deaths clearly indicate that we must do better,’ Isakson said in a statement.
Rep. Mark Takano, D-Calif., chairman of the House Committee on Veteran’s Affairs, said the deaths were part of a ‘national crisis’. There will be a full committee hearing later this month to discuss the issue.
‘Every new instance of veteran suicide showcases a barrier to access, but with three incidents on VA property in just five days, and six this year alone, it’s critical we do more to stop this epidemic,’ Takano said in a statement. ‘All Americans have a role to play in reducing veteran suicide, and the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs is going to make this issue a top priority.’
Around 20 veterans kill themselves every day. The rate is 1.5 times higher for those who have served in the military compared to those who have not.