“I want to breathe life into the Dead Sea”
We all know what’s plaguing our community: the suicide rate. 22 vets a day are taking their lives. This is unacceptable. As I stated in my last post, I sincerely believe the underlying issue is guys feeling like they lack a purpose in the world. I wasn’t saying that we pine for war, or violence. I’m saying that we woke up everyday and knew exactly what needed to be done. Now, we don’t. I’m also not trying to justify the GWOT in any fashion. I whole-heartedly disagree with the way the war has been handled. Not by the war fighters, but by the politicians who could not be further removed from the gravity and reality of the situations.
This week, I want to address that. I think this war has become something completely different than what it was on 9/12/2001. That day, I implore you to find a single American that didn’t feel the sting of the loss of life on our own soil. Whether they wanted a war or not, everyone was just as upset and angry with what had happened. It has now become another (as one commenter put it) “Walk Away” war. There is an obvious trend in American war fighting that I feel is a detriment to the military, our value in the world as a nation, and our treasury. We find wars, get mired in them, lose focus on the objective (or just make up a ludicrous one), give up, and walk away.
I’m getting off base here. The suicide rate among GWOT vets is an epidemic. The DoD has a campaign that is trying to address the issue. A “see something, say something” initiative aimed at getting Joes to watch their buddies and inquire about their well being. As well intentioned as it is, it’s being sold by commanders as if someone commits suicide on your watch, it’s your fault. I think this mentality is just as bad as the suicides themselves and just places guilt and blame where there shouldn’t be any. What I personally think we need is a change in the landscape.
Again, guys (and gals) need a purpose. Just telling them that they’re “still warriors” doesn’t help at all when we are being marginalized by an administration that is scrambling to distance itself from the GWOT and it’s byproducts. The suicide rate gets a 10 second blip on the news, right before weather and sports. I feel this is something that needs to be shouted from the rooftops.
Let me get this straight, I do not believe any of us are owed a damn thing. I don’t feel sorry for myself, nor do I believe most of us do. I don’t think we deserve to be put on a pedestal or worshipped as gods of war. I agree that as a whole, we’ve been treated better than the Nam vets when they came home. There’s not really downright hostility towards us for the most part. However, there IS indifference. This is the landscape I think needs to be changed. We live in a society that is constantly looking down into screens on tablets, phones, and laptops….let’s use that to our advantage. Let’s have our own “Reawakening.” Let’s show those in the media, Hollywood, and DC that we’re not going to be silent as we’re disregarded as a damaged generation of angry vets.
But, in order to do this, we need to set aside our differences of branch of service, MOS, religious views, and political affiliations. We can’t have an agenda to push other than getting people to recognize that 22 veterans are lost at home every day. We can’t allow the struggle to be used as a political platform by anyone. We need to reach the soccer mom at home, watching American Idol. We need to wake America up and realize that there’s more going on here than PTSD. The indifference is a huge factor in suicides and it can’t be treated with the pills the VA are all too happy to prescribe. Not only does an operator come home and feel that he has nothing going on in his life, nothing to train for, nothing to focus on, but he feels his neighbors don’t care either. They notice he never leaves the house, never smiles, but they’d rather bury their heads in the sand and pretend that nothing is wrong. I feel America’s focus is completely misdirected. Do I think they shouldn’t have cable TV or iPhones to bury their faces in? No. But I think they should realize that there’s more going on in their neighborhoods than the St. Patricks day parade. We need to take care of each other. That’s what I think our new mission should be. This should be our purpose. This is our new battlefield.
The talking heads that get millions of viewers, whether it’s Rachel Maddow or Sean Hannity, should be addressing this issue front and center. Instead of bickering amongst themselves for ratings, they need to make America aware that there is a problem that is being perpetuated by their lack of interest of the American public at large. I had a civilian ask me to name a decent charity for vets. I told him the one where you seek out a veteran and talk to him. Acknowledge him, listen to him, invite him to dinner. I told him to break away from his March basketball bracket and go to his coworker, his neighbor, his nephew and talk to him, check in on him from time to time. I truly believe that if your average American citizen started opening their eyes and let the the war fighters know they’re cared about just as much as Honey Boo-Boo, we will see the suicide rates decline. As veterans ourselves, we need to get the word out and set an example.
In the words of John J. Rambo
“I want what they want, and every other guy who came over here, and spilt his guts and gave everything he had wants. For our country to love us as much as we love it. That’s what I want.”