ROGERSVILLE — Roger Pipkins is a Vietnam veteran who wants to encourage other veterans to help veterans.
That will be his message when he speaks during the Rogersville Veterans Day program Friday morning.
Pipkins is co-founder of an organization that trains more than 2,500 people every year how to recognize and prevent veteran suicide.
He also recently moved to Mooresburg and will be keynote speaker for the Veterans Day observance on Rogersville’s Courthouse Square.
A Mississippi native, Pipkins joined the Army in 1962, went to Vietnam in 1965, and returned home in March of 1968 right after the Tet Offensive.
He went to college on the G.I. Bill and earned his master’s degree from the University of Alabama to become physician’s assistant.
He spent most of his career working in orthopedics and retired in 1994.
Upon retiring, he and a friend founded Straight Scoop For Vets to help battle veteran suicide.
Pipkins told the Times-News Friday that when they founded Straight Scoop, the veteran suicide problem was mainly with Vietnam veterans, but today they’re dealing with high rates of suicide among Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.
Female veterans are 12 times more likely to commit suicide than female non-veterans, Pipkins noted, while male veterans are three times more like to commit suicide than non-veteran males.
“My buddy and I were complaining about the high rate of veteran suicides, and someone told us to quit complaining and do something about it,” he said. “So we started a nonprofit to raise awareness about the high rate and then to offer some preventive measures. One thing we did was offer some free online training to teach people what to look for, and then we started teaching the class live.
“Now we teach advanced courses. We train over 2,500 people per year on suicide prevention. We train law enforcement. We train EMS. We train school teachers. We train students. Anybody we can who might be around a veteran.”
Pipkins recently moved to Mooresburg from New Mexico so that he could be close to his daughter, who lives in Maryville.
His presentation Friday will focus mainly on how older veterans can help younger veterans.
“Our suicide rate is increasing among young veterans, but it is preventable,” Pipkins said. “One of the ways we can do that is to learn how to help protect them. We don’t have to be counselors, but if we know what to look for, we can help prevent suicides.”
The Veterans Day program in downtown Rogersville begins at 11 a.m.
Rev. Tecky Hicks will open the program with prayer, followed by opening remarks by master of ceremonies Capt. Larry Wheeler (Ret.) from Rogersville VFW Post 9543.
The Cherokee and Volunteer NJROTC members will preside over the raising of the flag, and the national anthem will be performed by the Rogersville City School band.
VFW Post Commander Dave Evans will lead the Pledge of Allegiance, followed by a patriotic musical by the RCS band.
Wheeler will then introduce Pipkins, who will speak, followed by the placing of the wreath ceremony, taps, and the 21 gun salute.
A free lunch will be provided to all Hawkins County veterans by the Hawkins County Cattleman’s Association, located on Stanley Valley Road just off of 11-W.
Related story: Click here to see video and print coverage from Rogersville’s 2015 Veteran’s Day ceremony.