NewsLocal News


Wisconsin veteran says a cup saved his life, the message he has for others contemplating suicide

Every day 22 people who served our country die by suicide.
Screen Shot 2022-11-10 at 7.38.54 PM.png
Posted at 9:46 PM, Nov 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-11 13:40:39-05

OSHKOSH, Wis. — Every day, 22 men and women, mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, all people who served our country, die by suicide. That’s 22 people every day that an Oshkosh area veteran says do not need to die and he wants others to know, they are not alone.

Screen Shot 2022-11-10 at 7.38.54 PM.png
Jorel Wester, U.S. Coast Guard Veteran, sits with his service dog Betsy at South Park in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

A stop for food and a drink five years ago changed the course of an Oshkosh-area veteran’s life. Jorel Wester tells me he planned to commit suicide when a cup stopped him and caused him to call for help.

Wester is enjoying a warm afternoon walk near some water with his dog but a few years ago being too close to the water would have been too much for this U.S. Coast Guard veteran.

Jorel Wester while serving in the U.S. Coast Guard

“I was a boatswain mate. I drove rescue crafts, small boats,“ said Wester. “I wanted to drive big boats in heavy surf."

And Wester loved to do it. For nearly a dozen years he served in the military until he had an accident.

One of the boats Jorel Wester says he served on in the U.S. Coast Guard.

“I was underwater for a few minutes. That's terrifying when you have to come to the realization that you aren't coming back from this boat ride,” said Wester.

After that, he was medically discharged and eventually become depressed.

"The hole got bigger, darker, and harder to get out of. I hit a point where there was no way out of it. I couldn't find the help I was needing. I couldn't find anyone to talk to who understood. I made a decision to take my life,” said Wester.

So in 2017, Wester ended his shift at work and went to get a sandwich. He had a plan, but he was looking for a sign not to do it.

"I was going to have a meal. I was going to have something to eat and I told myself if anybody stops me or talks to me, or if, 'how are you doing? Are you doing ok?' Anything. I just wanted something, someone to say, 'ya know, you look like you need help,'” said Wester.

He got his food and was given a cup that advertised K9s for Warriors. It said they connect service animals to veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

The cup that had the ad for K9s for Warriors on it, which Jorel Wester was given with his meal when he was considering taking his own life. He now keeps that cup in his office.

"I kind of took that as there are other options,” said Wester. “I convinced myself that I was going to at least try."

He called K9s for Warriors and did the hardest thing he had ever done in his life... told someone he needed help.

"It is really scary to tell someone you have a plan. It was really scary for me. But that's what I needed. I needed to hear somebody say, ‘We can help you,’” said Wester.

He says they convinced him to call the VA to get help immediately. Wester started outpatient therapy and learned he had depression and PTSD.

Wester is not alone. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for post-9/11 veterans, according to Data from the White House shows that since 2010, more than 65,000 veterans have died by suicide. That's more than all the combat deaths from the Vietnam War and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan combined.

Wester went to therapy, but he still wasn't sure it would work. He wanted to quit but he says he kept going because he knew he would end back up in the same place, considering suicide.

He wants other veterans to know it gets better. After nearly a year of therapy, Wester got approved to get Betsy, his K9s for Warriors’ service dog.

Screen Shot 2022-11-10 at 7.39.21 PM.png
Jorel talks to his service dog Betsy.

“With Betsy here, she is the lid on the box. She helps me carry around my burden but makes it more manageable,” said Wester.

Even while Wester and TMJ4 reporter Rebecca Klopf were talking, Betsy would sense when he needed support and intervene.

Screen Shot 2022-11-10 at 7.39.43 PM.png
Betsy, Jorel's service dog, sits at his feet.

“It's okay,” said Wester to Betsy. “See, this is what she is trained to do.”

He wants people to know depression and PTSD do not go away, but he is living a happier life now with his wife and kids. He wants others to know it's possible.

"You aren't alone. It is not something you have to fight alone. It's not embarrassing to ask for help. Call someone,” said Wester.

Screen Shot 2022-11-10 at 7.39.03 PM.png
Jorel Wester and his service dog Betsy sit in a park in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

He says after he called K9s for Warriors, his very next call was to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline. That number is now three digits: 988. There is an option veterans can select when they call that hotline to speak to another veteran for help.

Report a typo or error // Submit a news tip