Fresh off his congressional testimony from a week earlier, American Legion National Commander Vincent “Jim” Troiola asked a joint assembly of South Carolina lawmakers to assist in preventing veteran suicide during an address at the State Capitol on Wednesday, March 8.
“Every member of this legislature…indeed, every American, can help us with this effort,” Troiola told state senators and representatives before describing the organization’s “Be the One” campaign. “Be the one to discuss a topic that for years went unmentioned in polite society. Be the one to reach out to a veteran who may be struggling. Be the one to encourage the veteran to seek help. Be the one to follow-up with the veteran to let him or her know that they are not forgotten. Be the one to convince a veteran that life is worth living and that suicide is absolutely not an option. In other words, be the one to save one.”
Troiola asked members of the legislature to advance the services that are available to veterans in crisis. “As elected officials and leaders in your districts, you have a large platform,” he said. “Please use it so share the new crisis hotline number, 9-8-8. We need to ensure that 9-8-8 is as widely known as 9-1-1. In fact, a 9-8-8 call today can help prevent a 9-1-1 call tomorrow.
Addresses to the South Carolina General Assembly have become an annual tradition for American Legion national commanders at the historic state house in Columbia. It is the only state legislature that consistently schedules remarks from the leader of the nation’s largest veterans organization.
Troiola praised the legislature for its passage of a law last year which exempted military pensions from the state’s income tax. “This sends exactly the right message to veterans searching for a state to call home after a career of military service,” he said. “Even before the governor signed the Workforce Enhancement and Military Recognition Act on May 13, the Palmetto State earned a well-deserved reputation as a welcoming community for America’s heroes.”
On Tuesday, Troiola received briefings from military leaders at Shaw Air Force Base and Fort Jackson. Disparities over basic housing allowances and a lack of affordable daycare options were concerns that Troiola heard from military members, which he also shared during his remarks to the legislature.
Troiola concluded his remarks by recognizing South Carolina State Sen. George “Chip” Campsen, III, and State Rep. Matthew W. Leber as The American Legion Department of South Carolina 2023 Outstanding Members of the Legislature.