A local magazine in Rochester, NY, recently published a cover story featuring Vic Montgomery, National Director of Operation Not Forgotten. It's a thorough, up-close look at this tremendous program and the man who's instrumental in making it effective. Here's an exerpt...
More than three decades ago, Victor Montgomery III set out to help fellow veterans with the issues they have carried with them out of the service.
"I have a passion to help that vet sitting before me," Montgomery says. "It's in my heart."
That passion for vets led the 70-year-old ex-Marine to help bring a new type of self-help program to the Finger Lakes, one that is geared specifically to the needs of those who have served their country. The Vet Life Operation Not Forgotten program allows veterans to gather together to help each other cope with the dificulties they encounter after leaving the service.
Flag Day June 14, 2014, Vic held a book signing event at the American Made store on Main St. Canandaigua, Finger Lakes Region Upstate New York.
Victor Montgomery, author of Healing Suicidal Veterans, has recently been named National Director of Operation Not Forgotten (ONF). Vic will serve on the Board of Directors of Life Renewed International a non-profit 501 (c) 3 organization. He will develop and manage the newly organized national network of Vet Life Communities − veterans helping veterans, support care groups throughout the United States. ONF is a program of Life Renewed International a non-profit 501 (c) 3 organization headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia. Operation Not Forgotten is not connected to the VA or any other government agency.
Leon Panetta, the former defense secretary, called the suicide rate among service members an epidemic.
"There's probably a tidal wave of suicides coming"
- The data the suicide rate is based on are incomplete
- Examples of uncounted: "suicide by cop," by overdoses and by vehicle crashes
- VA makes appeal for more uniform reporting of suicide data
The mission of Operation Not Forgotten (ONF) is to provide services that support the well-being of veterans and their families. We connect them with other veterans -- buddies they can trust and relate with to coach them through any difficulties. Our purpose is to measurably enhance and improve a veteran's quality of life and functioning in six areas: mental, physical, emotional, social, occupational and spiritual.
Many veterans have put themselves in harm's way and paid the ultimate price to protect the freedoms we enjoy. We have made it our mission to stand beside them and support them by developing a network of community care groups that support access to appropriate, quality services and care. Through our ONF Vet Life Communities, we are changing the way veterans and their families are helped.
There are 23 million veterans in this country today − 2013. Studies report approximately 17 million or 76% of those veterans have never set foot in a VA Medical Center or VA Outpatient clinic. Most are reluctant to admit difficulties or communicate their pain for fear it may be perceived as weakness. Many fear the potential label, or stigma of mental illness. So where do they go for free help... when suicide ideation, domestic violence, substance abuse, chronic depression and post-traumatic stress symptoms begin to destroy their lives and their marriages fall apart?
Research shows that one in three returning from combat is being diagnosed with serious Post Traumatic Stress symptoms, and less than 40% will receive help. With our nation's present conflicts, new generations of veterans are returning home, many of whom have substantial psychopathology and are encountering significant barriers in accessing care.
In response to the needs of our courageous service men and women, Life Renewed's mission, Operation Not Forgotten, is developing a network of Vet Life Communities, veteran to veteran care groups. Vet Life Communities are designed to make available to all veterans, a meeting place, and confidential and anonymous care groups offering tools to assess their current level of functioning and determine what, if any, help or coaching they may need as they transition back into life outside the military. Groups for male and female veterans are separate to ensure privacy, openness and effective discussions. There will also be separate meetings for family members. These care groups are free and are available to military veterans of all ages.
Operation Not Forgotten is designed specifically for veterans by military personnel and mental health professionals.