VA S.A.V.E. training class teaches American Legion Family members how to help veterans in crisis

Posted On: Friday, 26 April 2024

American Legion Resolution No. 9 encourages the hosting of U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) S.A.V.E. training classes in support of Be the One — the Legion’s suicide prevention mission to save the lives of veterans and destigmatize asking for mental health support. The VA S.A.V.E. training is a free online or in-person course taught by a VA suicide prevention coordinator who gives you the tools to help a veteran in crisis or having thoughts of suicide. 
The American Legion has reported that members in New York, North Dakota, and Kentucky have already facilitated training events with their local VA centers.
In an interview with The American Legion, Glenn Wahus, a past national vice commander and member of North Dakota Post 29, shared that the training gives each participant the tools to talk to a veteran or anybody in the community.  
“We needed our veterans to know that there’s training available out there through the VA to assist us in being the one,” reported Wahus. “We have it right with Be the One to ask, to reach out, to listen. That’s pretty much S.A.V.E. training.”
After the training in New York, Dean Erck, Post 904 adjutant and service officer, said he was struck by how hard it was to look someone in the eye and ask, ‘Are you thinking about hurting yourself?’ “Even when you’re role playing, it’s hard to actually get that out,” Erck said. “So, this definitely gives you an opportunity to practice something that you hope you don’t have to use. But if you ever do, you want to feel confident that you’re able to do it.” 
In Kentucky, the training was provided by National Guard veteran Kelly Marcum, a mental health social worker who serves as community engagement and partnerships coordinator at the VA medical center in Louisville. 
Marcum said teaming with organizations like The American Legion is valuable as the VA continues to work to reduce veteran suicides — especially among those not in the health care system. 
“Anecdotally and statistically, it’s of the upmost importance now for [VA] to involve the community in suicide prevention,” Marcum told The American Legion. “Being able to train community members, have relationships with people like The American Legion — who can now interact with those veterans in a way that we talked about in the training — is going to prevent suicide for those folks who are maybe coming to a Legion [post] where they feel comfortable … or any other community where they feel comfortable going in and asking for help.”

How can members bring the VA S.A.V.E. training to their unit or post homes?
Those interested in hosting a VA S.A.V.E. training class can facilitate it through their local VA medical center’s suicide prevention team. An ALA unit can locate contact information for their local suicide prevention team through the Veterans Crisis Line resource website at Once on the website, enter a ZIP code and press search. Then select the box next to suicide prevention coordinators and press search again. Once completed, you will be provided with the closest suicide prevention coordinator and their contact information.

What is taught during the training?
• The scope of veteran suicide in the United States
• Signs and symptoms of suicidal thinking
• How to identify a veteran who may be at risk for suicide
• How to ask questions about suicide in an objective and non-threatening way
• What to do when you identify a veteran who may be at risk for suicide
The in-person training also may include role-playing exercises where participants ask another participant suicide prevention questions.

Who should participate in this training?
Those hosting VA S.A.V.E. training classes are encouraged to invite the entire Legion Family and members of the community to attend. Attendees do not have to be enrolled in the VA health care system to take the training. The more individuals trained in VA S.A.V.E., the more veterans in crisis who can be helped.

How can members take the VA S.A.V.E. training online?
Visit to take the free course online.
 The S.A.V.E. acronym helps you remember these steps for suicide prevention when helping a veteran:
S: signs that indicate a veteran might be thinking about suicide
A: ask the most important question of all: “Are you thinking of killing yourself?”
V: validate the veteran’s experience
E: encourage treatment and expedite getting help

ALA Mission

In the spirit of Service, Not Self, the mission of the American Legion Auxiliary is to support The American Legion and to honor the sacrifice of those who serve by enhancing the lives of our veterans, military, and their families, both at home and abroad. For God and Country, we advocate for veterans, educate our citizens, mentor youth, and promote patriotism, good citizenship, peace and security.