I read a quote from Ernest Hemingway that read, “the first draft of anything is s***.” That is how I feel about this post. I have sat on it and sat on it. I have read this over and over again. I have come to realize that the problem is not with my words, but there are just not words powerful enough to translate what I am feeling.
I am angry. I am sad. I feel helpless.
As Jason was putting the girls down for bed the other night, I was casually scrolling social media before beginning my daunting homework assignment (also known as procrastination at it’s finest) and noticed a friend had announced the passing of a mutual friend. A veteran who Jason had been through deployments with. Another person Jason has served beside had decided that the life he was left with was too much to bear. The circumstances he was facing were bigger than his will to keep fighting. He decided to take his own life.
This man was a son. A grandson.
This man was loved.
This man was a brother to many, many men.
This man was strong, and brave. He had given a large part of his life to serve his country.
He is not just a statistic. He was and is so much more to so many people.
My initial response is to take care of my grieving husband. This loss cut a little deeper than the previous losses. As those he served with found out the news, the overall response was shock and utter disbelief. This loss was one no one saw coming. Jason described him as a smiling face. A goofball. A good time. Surely, not someone you would expect to be dealing with any mental hurdles. Circulating words have suggested he was dealing with PTSD. Others think that his transition to civilian life was just too much. Unfortunately, no one will ever know. No one will ever have the chance to reach out and help before it was too late. He is gone, just like so many others.
In trying to comfort Jason, I am sad. I am sad that someone could give so much of themselves and be left to feel so broken. However, I am overwhelmingly angry. I am mad and exhausted of repeatedly hearing the same news. These men (and women) deserve so much more.
I have not been to war. I have only seen it through my husbands eyes. I have only heard it from the other end of phone calls where mortars are exploding in the background. I have listened to my husbands strong and deep voice turn shaky and soft as he explains how his plane was almost shot down. My second hand experiences are enough to change my outlook on certain aspects of life. Enough to make me cry too much when he leaves on a business trip because my brain is wired for deployments after all these years. Enough to make me not cry at all because sometimes it’s easier to turn emotion off than to feel it.
If my second hand experience can feel so strong and impact so many aspects of my life, then what are these men going through upon return?
Could you imagine not even being the man in the middle of the fight, but the one with the radio listening to the screams and calls for help? Could you imagine being the 18 year old tasked with staying up all night in a tower to watch over base in the middle of a war zone? Imagine your neighborhood being bombed and the house next door is up in flames, bodies burning in the street, but the bombs missed your house. Do you think you might be traumatized? Just being a witness to the realities of war is enough to send anyone into a spiral of questions.
Then, after returning home, physically safe and sound, your contract ends and you feel excitement at what a new chapter of life might hold. You think war is behind you and you feel optimistic at the life that lies ahead. You take off that uniform for the last time and step out into the civilian world. You are filled with the motivation and tools that the pre-separation briefings have equipped you with. How to address potential employers. How to negotiate a salary. What an effective resume should look like. Great and relevant tools. Tools to be used when someone gives you the time of day, but how many doors do you knock on before you start to question the path you’re on? Confidence diminishes and the demons that hid in the back of your mind all of a sudden appear at the forefront.
Experiences that were a part of your past, shaping your strength and pride in service for your country, have now left you feeling worthless.
Again, I don’t know what these men have felt in the moments they decided the only choice they had left was to end their life. I can only see through my second hand experiences at what it means to live a life of sacrifice, survive the viciousness of war, and to come home to feel like you have been left with nothing.
Since the very first one of Jason’s friends and fellow Veterans committed suicide (unfortunately, there have been many), we have been on the constant thought process of how to help. There are some amazing programs out there that do quality work and help those in need. But, how do you help those who don’t ask for help? Those who are too scared, ashamed, or embarrassed that they no longer feel like themselves.
I feel insignificant and small in the big picture and ultimately, I feel helpless. What could I possibly offer that another big company or organization isn’t already doing? However, this latest life lost has made me realize one very important thing- the smallest and seemingly most insignificant action can speak volumes for another. So, I am taking very small steps to begin helping. We all start somewhere.
I will be adding a section to my blog where key chains and jewelry will be available for purchase. These items will be able to be customized by the purchaser and are all handmade (by ME!). Each item will include an additional (very small) charm stamped with “MT 5:9”. This bible verse states, “Blessed are the peacekeepers, for they will be called the children of God.”
A portion of profits from each purchase will be donated to an organization currently working to diminish the rates of Veteran suicide (to be determined as I am researching every aspect of the organization’s efforts- too many scams out there). The rest of the profits will begin a fund to start taking some bigger steps and action. Small steps towards a bigger picture.
If you would like to preorder before this section of my blog is fully running, please contact me and I will make it happen! I am currently building my stock of options.