NEWINGTON, N.H. (AP) – The suicide of a New Hampshire Air National Guard member, the day after he returned from the war last month, has prompted the guard to offer counseling sooner to returning airmen and women.

Sgt. Dave Guindon of Merrimack died after returning from six months in battle.

In addition to counseling and screening for possible signs of post-traumatic stress, the guard says a chaplain now will provide the names and phone numbers of available counselors to returning guard members, minutes after they get off the plane.

The gesture is the latest addition to the Air National Guard’s reunion-and-reintegration program, and an Air Force suicide-prevention program that were in place for Guardsmen before Guindon’s death, said Chief Master Sgt. Ron Nadeau, the 157th Air Refueling Wing’s command chief.

The Army National Guard provides comparable services to N.H. Army National Guard members, according to guard Adjutant Gen. John Blair.

Air Force officials investigating Guindon’s death don’t yet know if he suffered from combat-related post-traumatic stress disorder, but Guard officials have developed a program to help members returning from combat readapt to civilian life and to identify whether they may have developed the disorder.

The program includes talking to family members about how to watch for signs of the illness.

Before Guard members complete a mission, they fill out a medical form that screens them for possible signs of the disorder, according to Nadeau.

One to two days after airmen and women return, officials from the Veterans Administration Center meet with members of a unit, as a group and individually.

“The main thing is not only to begin screening these folks, but to make them familiar with the person from the Veterans Center,” Nadeau told The Portsmouth Herald.

An individual session with a VA counselor is mandatory within three weeks of the return, he said.

Nadeau and Blair stressed its important for Guardsmen and women to know that it’s OK for them to ask for help.

Blair, a Vietnam veteran, said the suicide-prevention programs have come a long way, but still can be improved.

“We’re going to have to continue to be vigilant and continue to do better,” he said. “When I came back (from Vietnam), there was nothing like this – you were just supposed to suck it up. I don’t know how many people we lost (because of that).”



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