Retired Army Sgt. Omar Duran has a long list of injuries after surviving an IED explosion in Afghanistan.
“No vision in the right eye. I've got a pin in my elbow. I've got spinal cord pins. Both hips have been replaced,” he said.
He’s used to getting around his home in Clearwater in a wheelchair, but what’s even more challenging is dealing with the emotional trauma of four deployments. At his worst, while still in the hospital, Duran contemplated taking his own life.
“I had it planned out, man,” Duran explained. “I was saving all my pain pills, and literally that night, I told myself, 'This is it.'”
His nurse didn’t realize it at the time, but she ended up saving his life.
“She walked in at that very moment, and she had no clue what she walked into,” he said.
Retired Army Staff Sgt. Justin Miller has a similar story. On the brink of suicide, he called a friend and fellow veteran instead.
“Looked at my nightstand and saw my pistol sitting there and the only thing that stopped me was there wasn't a round in the chamber, and I thought putting a round in that chamber would wake up my wife,” he said in a FaceTime interview.
Now Miller and that friend are business partners. They’re part of a team, made up of several veterans and service members, developing an app called Objective Zero. It will link up a veteran in crisis with another trained veteran, active service member or counselor nearby. With the click of a button, they can have an anonymous conversation.
“These people actually care,” Miller explained. “They're not looking for a paycheck. They're not looking for fame. They're just there to listen and let them know how important and how loved they are, and I think it's going to make a huge difference.”
Miller thinks it could save lives. Duran hadn't heard of the app until this story, but now he plans to download it and become a mentor for someone else.
“If that tool can be just seen on their phone to just, 'Let me try it one time.' That one time's enough,” Duran said.
The company hopes to have Objective Zero on the market for iPhones and Androids by September. Miller said if things go well, he’d like to expand beyond just veterans. Miller thinks it could help first responders too, for example.