Franklin James Cook

Prevention Advocate One-on-One with Obama on Train Ride

In Advocacy, Grief, Prevention on January 19, 2009 at 10:41 pm
Matt Kuntz, center, and his wife, far left (partially hidden), chat with Barack Obama and Joe Biden during their pre-Inauguration Day train trip.  (Photo by Alex Brandon, Associated Press)

Matt Kuntz, center, chats with Barack Obama and Joe Biden during their pre-Inauguration Day train trip. (Photo by Alex Brandon, Associated Press)

ORIGINAL ARTICLE — Staff writer Jodi Rave reports in the Missoulian that last Saturday, Matt Kuntz–a survivor of suicide loss from Montana–“was the only guest invited to join President-elect Barack Obama on the caboose deck as the Whistle Stop Tour slowly rolled out of Philadelphia, en route to Washington, D.C.”

“It was just the president-elect, his wife and myself,” said Kuntz, one of 16 “everyday Americans” invited as guests on the train. “It was amazing.”

“As I prepare to leave for Washington … know that I will not be traveling alone,” said Obama [during a speech before departing]. “I will be taking with me some of the men and women I met along the way, Americans from every corner of this country, whose hopes and heartaches were the core of our cause, whose dreams and struggles have become my own … Theirs are the voices I will carry with me every day in the White House. Theirs are the stories I will be thinking of when we deliver the changes you elected me to make … ”

Hopefully, the President-elect will ambitiously promote the cause for which Kuntz has been an advocate in his home state, and as he does, the new President also will transform the lessons being learned about soldiers and PTSD into an opportunity to take the lead on making suicide prevention a national priority.

Kuntz … began dedicating his time and effort to helping the mentally ill after his stepbrother, Chris Dana, committed suicide upon returning from the war in Iraq with the Montana National Guard. In response, Kuntz, now executive director of Montana’s National Alliance on Mental Illness, led the state in creating a program to monitor National Guard soldiers for signs of PTSD … Obama met Kuntz and other veterans when he was campaigning in Montana before last June’s primary. As president, Obama has promised to expand NAMI’s mental health program for soldiers nationwide.

[The abridged URL for this post is .]

[Related SPNAC post: “Montana Advocate Will Be Obama’s Guest at Inauguration” ]

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  1. Here is a follow-up story about Kuntz’s train ride with Obama.

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