Bossier City native calls for increase in U.S. veteran suicide prevention after brother washed ashore in Wallace Lake
SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – After searching for a week, authorities found the body of a Pecos, Texas resident washed ashore in Wallace Lake. Rather than hide the circumstances of his death, his sister wants to raise awareness to prevent U.S. military veteran suicides.
Family and friends gathered on a Saturday evening just before sunset at the Wallace Lake Dam to remember Bossier City native Anton King, Jr., 36.
Caddo Parish Sheriff’s deputies and other law enforcement officers found King washed ashore near the dam on March 6. The week-long search started after family members reported that he was possibly in the area and threatening self-harm on February 28.
Born and raised in Bossier City, King enlisted in the Army in 2004 and served until 2012.
He was deployed to the middle east in 2005, where he experienced the horrors of war first-hand and later through hauntings in his mind that would not let him find the peace he so desperately wanted.
During his time in the service, King made many friends. He also lost many friends. Some died from injuries sustained in IED attacks and gunfire, but others took their own lives.
That is precisely what King did after sending his sister, Courtney Echols, and close friends a text message letting them know he had reached his end.
Echols traveled from Irvine, California, to bury her brother. She said the man she affectionately called “Buba” was the biggest LSU fan, and like many siblings, they lived to give one another a hard time. Echols’ love and profound loss were apparent as she spoke about the death of her brother and so many others.
“While his method may be unconventional, his story is not,” Echols said. “We know that in 2020, the suicide rate was reportedly 57% higher for veterans than for non-veterans. And among veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, that number is even higher. What we also know to be true is suicide is the second leading cause of death for post-911 veterans.
Echols said that VA data shows, on average, 17 veterans take their own lives daily, which many believe is underestimated. Echols also said suicide is the second leading cause of death among veterans.
Veteran suicides are an unfortunate statistic that the United States Department of Veteran Affairs tracks with very detailed state-by-state and U.S. territory data.
Below are the number of veteran suicides in Louisiana since 2012, the year that King left military service:
- 2012: 86
- 2013: 86
- 2014: 104
- 2015: 100
- 2016: 82
- 2017: 107
- 2018: 100
- 2019: 91
- 2020: 86
*Data for 2021 and 2022 not available
King had a PTSD diagnosis, and his message to friends and family on the last day of February was not the first message of its kind. He had spoken about and attempted suicide before. Echols’ husband was able to talk King out of a dark place once, but not this time.
Echols said fewer than half of the veterans that need help receive it through the VA. Reports across the country increasingly show that former service members are taking mental health care into their own hands to escape PTSD, depression, and substance abuse as the U.S. Department of Defense figures out a solution for a problem that has persisted far too long.
She and other advocates say increased availability and better treatment options are needed.
Echols’ is also calling for the armed services to do more to help when service members transition into civilian life. Lastly, Echols calls for more funding. According to the VA, they will spend slightly less than $14 billion of the administration’s budget on mental health services and $497 million to support the Biden administration’s military suicide prevention efforts.
Anyone who wants to help the family of Anton King can visit the Buffalo Wild Wings Youree Drive location on Monday, March 20. Present the ticket below, and 20% of your bill will assist with King’s burial. The family also set up a Go Fund Me account to help with funeral arrangements.