Mike Porcelli, a long-time Glendale resident and U.S. Army veteran, is on a mission to end what he says is the “national disgrace” of veteran suicides, as chief of staff of The Gold Shield, a fairly new organization advocating for veteran support services and cancer research.
On average, there were nearly 18 veteran suicides per day in 2018, according to a 2020 report by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) — an increase from years prior. The department has yet to analyze COVID-19 pandemic-era suicide rates among veterans.
“So far, in my experience, the people I’ve talked to have all said they had no idea how many veterans were committing suicide and when they heard the number, they said, ‘That’s disgraceful, we can’t let this continue.’ And I said, ‘Well, that’s why we’re here, to make sure it doesn’t continue,” Porcelli said.
The Gold Shield, an organization of businesses both large and small currently active in New York, New Jersey and Delaware and will be going nationwide, is working to raise awareness and funds for veterans charities addressing the issue of veteran suicides, PTSD and other maladies, such as A Matter of Honor, Reining Liberty Ranch and Dryhootch.
They operate with a membership, and are enlisting the support of businesses who pay a tax-deductible, nominal membership fee to fund their media campaign, which will feature radio and TV spots, columns, and other public service messages. In turn, members are identified locally and on their platforms as supporters of veterans’ needs. The members in their network are then encouraged to donate directly to a variety of organizations and programs that deliver services to veterans, which Gold Shield verifies.
“There are so many scam charities around these days, and a lot of people are afraid to donate because maybe they’ve donated to a group one day and they found out the next day that they were scammed,” Porcelli said. “We provide a method where they can be sure that any charity listed on our site is a bonafide veteran-supporting charity.”
He added that they hope to eliminate the need for those charities to spend donations on advertising.
Individuals may also join The Gold Shield as ambassadors at no charge, in order to help enlist support of businesses, demonstrate support of veterans by patronizing those businesses and help spread their mission.
Porcelli first learned about The Gold Shield about two years ago when they advertised on AM 970 The Answer station, where his radio show, “The-Autolab,” airs.
Porcelli currently teaches automotive technology at The City University of New York and has served as a member of Queens Community Board 5 for 30 years.
He comes from a three-generation family of veterans, and, as he said, “basically majored” in ROTC while pursuing his undergraduate degree at Pratt Institute. He later became a U.S. Army Infantry and Counterintelligence Officer.
But Porcelli said that although he tried to get assigned to the Vietnam War, the “opportunity never came up.”
“I never suffered any of the traumatic experiences that a lot of my brothers and sisters have,” Porcelli said. “So I feel an obligation to help them recover from whatever bad experiences they had.”
He said that while veteran suicides is a pressing matter, the country is failing veterans in several other ways, too.
“Doesn’t it really bother you that we have veterans that are homeless? It’s bad enough that anybody should be homeless, but for this country to allow veterans to go homeless, when we owe them so much,” Porcelli said. “We owe them so much but we give them so little. That’s the problem.”
Porcelli said they’ve already received support from almost a dozen businesses and groups, including the Glendale Kiwanis Club (of which Porcelli is also a member) and a Bayside car dealership. They hope to grow the network to support The Gold Shield’s mission.
“I know a lot of veterans who look fine, they sound fine, but they’re really not fine. And those are the ones that one day, they just give up. I know several people who function well enough that nobody realizes that they have a problem — and some don’t have a problem until one day, all of a sudden, something triggers a memory and then they’re in trouble,” Porcelli said.
Porcelli said that while symbols like the POW MIA flag, which asserts soldiers “are not forgotten,” the problem is that too many veterans do feel forgotten.
“We promise not to forget the vets that don’t come home, how can we neglect the ones that do come home?” Porcelli said. “We as a society, have to do everything we can to take care of the people who risked everything to defend us.”
To learn more about The Gold Shield, visit www.thesimpletruth.us.