The Valor Guard Initiative is a national project that will utilize advanced data analytics and artificial intelligence to monitor and intervene in potential suicide risk among veterans.

The Valor Guard Initiative is a national project that will utilize advanced data analytics and artificial intelligence to monitor and intervene in potential suicide risk among veterans. (Joshua J. Seybert/U.S. Air Force)

(Tribune News Service) — An initiative aimed at preventing suicide among veterans is being spearheaded by an Allen Park, Mich., native determined to help save lives.

Andrew “Ace” Linares is the first to admit he never would have dreamed that one day he would take on such a daunting task, given that he was a self-described “wild child” as a teenager.

He recalls with fondness walking into the former Kmart on Dix- Toledo in Lincoln Park and meeting a uniformed Army staff sergeant who impressed the young man with his self-respect and toughness.

In 2006, shortly after that meeting, he enlisted at the age of 18 and would go on to earn numerous military accolades, including a Presidential Commendation and being named MACOM Soldier of the Year.

The discipline he learned as a soldier helped him in his academic pursuits as he earned degrees in security management, philosophy, Latin American studies, and an executive MBA from the University of Michigan — Stephen M. Ross School of Business. He also spent time at Cornell University, which further honed his expertise in nonprofit financial management.

All his training and life experiences led Linares to where he is today, the chief executive officer of HATSOFF, an acronym for Honoring All The Sacrifices Of Freedom Fighters.

Andrew “Ace” Linares served in the Army for 8½ years.

Andrew “Ace” Linares served in the Army for 8½ years. (HATSOFF)

Linares expressed his excitement about the upcoming launch of the Valor Guard Initiative, a project under HATSOFF that focuses on suicide prevention for veterans.

He served in the Army for 8½ years. Now back home in Michigan and living in Dearborn Heights, Linares’ nonprofit organization has an office at the Horizon Building, 20600 Eureka Road in Taylor.

Although based locally, the Valor Guard Initiative is a national project that will utilize advanced data analytics and artificial intelligence to monitor and intervene in potential suicide risk among veterans.

Its mission and vision is to use data collection technology for real-time suicide risk monitoring. That mission includes:

  • Employing AI to understand and intervene in veteran suicides.

  • Transforming data into a proactive tool for veteran well-being.

  • Addressing veterans’ stories and challenges with precision and care.

Described as a lifeline for veterans, the HATSOFF organization says it recognizes the urgent need to address the mental health crisis among the veteran community.

“Our Valor Guard Initiative is at the forefront, employing cutting-edge technology to preemptively identify and support those at risk,” HATSOFF states in an explanation of what it hopes to accomplish. “By harnessing the power of AI-driven analytics, we analyze patterns and signals across a multitude of data points, creating a predictive heatmap to pinpoint intervention opportunities before a crisis occurs. The program embodies our unwavering commitment to our veterans’ well being, offering a beacon of hope and a network of support.”

While data gathering is a vital component of the initiative, Valor-Guard is about much more than simply the compilation of data. Those who oversee the program say it’s about harnessing insight to forge a protective shield around those who served.

Linares is pioneering what the organization refers to as a proactive approach to veteran care. The initiative utilizes sophisticated AI algorithms to analyze vast datasets, identifying at-risk individuals through predictive modeling. It’s a system designed not just to react, but to prevent. It does this by using real-time analytics to create a safety net that expands across the United States.

The eight major risk factors are financial stress, physical health, mental health, social support, employment status, substance use, trauma history, and access to firearms.

Additionally, Linares said there are 350 subcategories of risk factors that are evaluated.

To put this in a context most people can identify with, Linares said the concept is similar to the consumer analytics that companies use when people search for their products or services online. Just as corporations know so much about individuals through their online searches, email, text messages, social media and advertisements they “click” on, Valor-Guard has the ability to identify at-risk veterans using some of that same data.

“This is the same existing technology that advertisers have been using for the past 15 years,” he said. “Even though we can’t actually know (for certain that a person is potentially suicidal), predictive models are accurate.”

Because of privacy laws, those who operate the Valor-Guard Initiative can’t directly interact with veterans who may be at risk of suicide, but they can identify areas where they live and work, targeting their resources to those particular neighborhoods.

Under Linares’ guidance, HatsApp has been developed to not only provide information, but to also offer real-time support, creating a community space where veterans can find both resources and camaraderie.

“With HatsApp, Ace is redefining how veterans navigate their post-service journey, ensuring they have the support they need at a touch of the button,” HATSOFF states on its website. “Through HatApp, Ace Linares is bridging the gap between the vast potential of technological innovation and the real-world needs of veterans, solidifying HATSOFF’s role as a pioneer in veteran support services.”

Linares said he has “an incredible team” throughout the country that he believes will ensure this initiative becomes a success, one that will help save the lives of many veterans.

HATSOFF states that involvement of individuals can save lives and deliver hope to our nation’s heroes. To connect with them in order to contribute to this program, or to find out more about it contact 313-443-3529, email, or visit their website at

If you or a loved one is feeling distressed, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by dialing 988 or chat at The crisis center provides free and confidential emotional support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to civilians and veterans.

(c)2024 The News Herald, Southgate, Mich.

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Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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