ADA, Okla. (KXII) - Wednesday morning Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie joined veterans and tribal leaders for a town hall.
He was joined by Chickasaw Nation Governor Bill Anoatubby.
"Our soldiers have made the greatest sacrifices and taken on the greatest burdens," Anoatubby said. "They have put their lives on the line to protect the freedoms that all Americans enjoy."
"200,000 native Americans serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard - no other group contributes more," Wilkie said.
Secretary Wilkie says he wants to reach out to more tribal nations veterans who need healthcare and other VA assistance.
"Everyday 20 veterans take their own lives but 14 of those 20 are outside of our VA so we need closer cooperation with our state partners and local partners to correct those problems," Wilkie said.
Secretary Wilkie also tells us about a suicide task force which will be a national effort to help decrease those numbers.
"President will hand the reigns, I believe, to me and we will get the department together to come up with a comprehensive national strategy to address this terrible problem," Wilkie said.
And he plans to do that with more town halls in rural areas - something he says is important to him having seen these issues growing up partly in Oklahoma and now as a cabinet member.
"They are not forgotten, (that) they don't have to travel hundreds of miles to get service so we have to make that a more robust relationship," Wilkie said.