June 26, 2016
Tomorrow is PTSD Awareness Day and I want you to wake up knowing a lot more than you knew today. It is time for some brutal honesty and that begins with the simple fact most of the veterans committing suicide are over the age of 50. Stunning I know but you are 78% of the veterans within the VA system taking your own lives and you did not even know it.
A visitor at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington passes early in the morning on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, 2013, to look at the names inscribed on the wall. J. David AP
29 and younger 3%
70-79 20 %
80 and older 14.8%
Ironically that is on page 22 from the Department of Veterans Affairs Suicide Report. While most of you are jumping onto your motorcycles for one charity ride after another trying to make a difference, it has been a worthy battle for the right reasons but with the wrong intel. As with combat, the wrong intel costs lives. In this case, it has meant more veterans your age are dying by their own hands instead of being lifted up by yours.
I see it all the time. I have never known a finer bunch of people than Vietnam veteran families. Patriotic and lovingly committed to other veteran no matter what branch, war or MOS your dedication is inspiring. That is the most heart-wrenching thing of all. You are not even aware you are in the greatest need of help. You are also the in the best position to help others heal.
So here is your new MOS. Specialize in healing so you can go on a Mission of Surviving to help others heal.
Vietnam veterans came home with the same wounds as all generations before them and after them. The difference is, it was your generation to being the fight to heal from what war did to you.
You pushed for all the research and funding on trauma that allowed the civilian population to address what trauma does to them. Because of you there are crisis intervention teams responding to events just like the one we had in Orlando at the Pulse when over 100 people were shot and 49 of them were killed. Because of you it is also known that that one horrible night will effect all the others for many more years to come.
It was not just the families notified their kids were not coming home or the survivors recovering from bullet wounds, but also those who escaped and those who left the club before it all began. Yes, we're talking about survivor guilt.
It is because of you it is known that the responders are forever changed as well and will need help to recover from it.
Because of you it has been learned that PTSD is caused by the trauma itself and is a wound. Trauma is Greek for "wound" so it is a wisely chosen term. It did not begin inside of you. It hit you. It hit you because you were there and felt it more than others. It has nothing to do with being weak but more to do with the strength of your emotional core and your commitment to others. That same commitment that allowed you to be willing to die for the sake of someone else.
As a matter of fact, your choice of profession after military service reflects that perfectly. The number one job veterans seek is in law enforcement, followed by firefighting, emergency responders, medical service and then teaching. Serving others is in your emotional core.
With that out of the way, you also need to remember you are not a "victim" but a survivor. You lived through combat. So why is it so hard for most of you to not be able to survive so long afterwards?
You have not been made aware that you can heal. You do not have to suffer as badly as you may be doing right now. This could very well be your last worst day and tomorrow can be the day you start to feel better. As a matter of fact, once you begin to heal you can end up being even better than you were on your best day in the military.
You did not fight alone in combat and there is no reason for you to feel as if asking for help now is wrong. It is just as vital now as it was back then. Getting all the support you could find to defeat the enemy saved lives and now getting all the help you can find now could very well save your own today and others when you help them heal later on.
Coming Out Of The Dark from 2006. The only difference is the numbers are higher, not lower after all these years of raising awareness.
Think of it a s new mission. You did all you could in combat to save them and that included being willing to pay the price with your own life so why not be willing to sacrifice your pride now? After all, there is nothing to be ashamed of if you have PTSD but your pride in discovering that has gotten in the way.
There is an ever growing list of Medal of Honor recipients talking about their own struggles because it has nothing to do with lacking anything including bravery. You can't get much more of a stronger example of bravery than having a Medal of Honor around their neck.
If you have survivor guilt and wonder why you are still here, that was not up to you. That was up to the person who put the bomb in the road or pulled the trigger of the gun. The question should be not about why you lived but what you are going to do with the rest of your life?
Do you do all you can to help yourself so you can help others?
Do you do all you can to make tomorrow better and make things up to folks you may have hurt?
Do you restore relationships and be the best person you can be or do you plan on just getting by today getting numb instead of felling all the good that has been trapped inside of you?
Do you go on spreading rumors as if they mean anything that will make any kind of a difference to anyone or do you learn the truth so you can give another veteran a reason to wake up one more day?
The choice is yours. What you become aware of tomorrow could very well save lives and that, that should be your new mission.