July 10, 2016
Capt. Elizabeth Schloemann is dealing with the loss of her husband Andres to suicide. She wrote about it on Army Times. This widow's story will break your heart, and compel the Army to change and she still serves at Fort Bliss. Yes, that Fort Bliss.
“It’s going to be okay.” No it isn’t. Not for a long time.
“It’s not your fault.” Are you sure? Were you there in that moment in his head? Can you really know that?
“There’s nothing you could have done.” Don’t get me started. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone over and over in my head what I could have and should have done. Don’t make me tell you all of them. I know it won’t change anything. I’m the one living with it.
How many times have those thoughts run through our own minds? How many hours have we spent wondering if we were going to get a knock on door or a phone call telling us our husbands and wives were not coming home? The rest of the country simply assumes that we are all ok. After all, our spouses have been home from war for decades. Why should we need anything?
The facts have been the facts since the 90's and nothing has changed. Our veterans were committing suicide at a rate of 20 a day in 1999 according to the VA. As of the latest report from the VA on suicides it is still at 20 but there are almost 7 million less veterans in the country.
The 2000 US Census had 26.4 million veterans and in 2013 we were down to 19.6 million. Yes, I know, we are all talking about what the states report with veterans outnumbering civilians at double their numbers. How the VA got to the 20 is a mystery when the CDC says that there are over 41,000 Americans committing suicide.
The other thing is that in the new report, veterans over the age of 50 are 68% of the veterans committing suicide. Yes, our generation but no one is talking about us. What makes all this worse is that they are not talking to us.
Too many have been there, done that and lost far too many. On the flip side, a lot of us have been there, done that and learned how to not lose this battle after war. We made mistakes when we had to learn on our own. We made miracles happen when we got out of the darkest journey no one warned us about.
I've been married almost 32 years. Not bad considering I was only 23 when I met my husband. Some of us have been married over 40 years and most of us are living with PTSD. That is the most important thing of all in all of this. LIVING WITH PTSD.
None of this is hopeless. So why haven't the majority of our older veterans got that message? Why hasn't the younger generation gotten that message?
I think is high time the rest of you started to deliver it! Get busy! Don't make the same mistakes all the new groups are making just jumping into all of this. First learn what you do not know and then put that with what experience has taught you.
Go to the VA and offer to help support groups. Go to the VFW, DAV, American Legion and spread the message that none of this is hopeless.
Write opinions to the editor of your local paper and get them to start telling our stories. Not just of the losses we suffer but the ones offering glimmers of hope that tomorrow can in fact be better.
If we don't start getting active, then we are going to let down far too many who should have survived being home with us.
Read the Captain's article and then know, we have a lot to do and it is time we actually did it!
Capt. Andres Schloemann committed suicide in December. His wife, Capt. Elizabeth Schloemann, hopes their story will prevent future soldiers from taking their own lives. (Photo: Courtesy Capt. Elizabeth Schloemann)
I wanted everyone to read it. I wanted people to see that we are only human. I made mistakes, too. As a leader, a Soldier, I felt like a failure. How often is it that we’re trained on suicide prevention? Were there things I should have known, should have looked for? Did I use all the resources I had available?If we do not, then as bad as the numbers are for us, for these young ones, it will be worse. It has been a decade of everyone doing the wrong things including military training and folks running around the country raising awareness about the problem they know little about. The results have shown no change for the better and we'll keep fighting the worst!
I wanted to revolt against being a widow. I am many things, and I didn’t want being a widow of a suicide to be the one that defined me. I am a woman, a warrior, and a mother. I am strong and fierce, proud of everything I have accomplished, but suddenly found myself an unwilling victim of something I couldn’t control. The temptation to stare everyone down and force them to look me in the eyes and see me instead of my burden was overwhelming.