U.S. Air Force Technical Sgt. James P. Connors of New Milford has dedicated himself to combating suicide among the military and first responders -- from police to firefighters.
For that reason, the force recently awarded the retired Teaneck firefighter its Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal.
Connors distinguished himself through “leadership, ceaseless efforts and dedication” to the Save a Warrior program, which aims to reduce suicide among returning veterans, active service members and first responders with post-traumatic stress, the Air Force said in awarding him an Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal.
Connors completed seven tours over the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Afghanistan.
He then became a “lead shepherd,” supporting and mentoring 400 of his fellow servicemen and servicewomen, many of whom had drug or emotional problems.
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, PTSD has killed more military members and first responders than the 9/11 attacks and the Afghanistan and Iraq wars combined -- nearly 7,500 a year. Nearly a half-million reportedly have sought treatment for it.
Connors has been there for many of them.
He dedicated 3,800 hours to the cause from January 2014 to June 2018 while with the 35th Aerial Port Squadron, 514th Mission Support Group and 514th Airlift Wing at the Joint McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst Air Force Base in Lakehurst, the Air Force said.
Connors also greeted countless warriors at the Los Angeles International USO, covering the travel expenses to and from the West Coast himself, as well as to Lexington, KY, “in order to help those in need,” the force said.
His peer-to-peer support has made sure that all "felt invited and cared for and know they are not alone in their fight,” it said.
Through his "no-matter-what attitude and generosity,” the Air Force citation says, Connors was “responsible for saving the lives of an untold number of returning Warriors and [helping ease the effect on] their families.”
For his part, Connors has said: “If I could tell someone who is suffering and in pain or isolating themselves from the world, I would say, 'Hang on, we are here, and it helps me to help you.'
"There is no more need to travel alone for. If you just look around, you will see we are all on the same train."
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