Thursday, November 23, 2017

When Heartache Turns To Action

Turning Heartache Into Action
Combat PTSD Wounded Times
Kathie Costos
November 23, 2017

More and more families are coming out and talking about the heartbreaking loss of losing someone who survived combat to suicide. 

There was a time in our history when it was happening but spoken about only to those closest to the family. To everyone else, they simply died suddenly.

It happened in our family. When my husband's nephew, also a Vietnam veteran, gave up on his next day being any better, he chose to end his story on earth.

One of the hardest topics for me to post about is the loss because of grieving that does not end. For me, it was a lot of guilt, and still is, because I was supposed to know everything I needed to know to help him heal. What I never figured out, was how to get him to listen.

The reason I do what I do is simple. It is all too personal. Living with PTSD is hard. I know what it does to the veteran, and I know what it does to the family. Living after someone has taken their own life instead of using their extra time after combat to fight to heal, is also personal.

While I do grieve, I also see the flip side of suicide. It breaks my heart that far too many never see the possibilities their lives still hold within them, trapped beneath the pain.

My husband and I have been married for over 30 years and he is living a better life than even we imagined. Sure it is a struggle. As with most veterans, it is a battle of not just survival, but a battle to take their lives back.

So, that is my heartache and why I do this.

Today, I want to try to focus on what I am grateful for. One of the things I appreciate most is when families turn their own, personal heartache into action for the sake of others.

It isn't easy taking that personal pain and making it public, but it is harder for most to simply do nothing.

Joshua Omvig's parents decided to take their heartache to Congress. Clay Hunt's family went to Congress. They turned heartache into action, hoping Congress would not just listen, but figure out what to do. 

They should have changed what didn't work and do whatever it took to make sure they figured out what would work. The problem is, as more and more stepped forward, Congress sat back on what was easy for them to do. Both of those veterans have suicide prevention bills in their names.

Here are some stories of others turning heartache into action.

The heartache

Texas: Grieving Army mom raises awareness about PTSD after loss of son AUSTIN - A Central Texas woman grieves the loss of her soldier son who died earlier this year after a struggle with PTSD. 
Sergeant Preston Hartley joined the Army after 9/11 in a show of patriotism, but after returning from his second tour in Iraq in 2010, his mom, Lynn, said he came back changed. He was with the 1st Cavalry Division out of Fort Hood.

"He did not feel like he knew where home was anymore, he was lost as to what he was supposed to do now," Lynn said.

He felt lost, experienced increasing anxiety, and he did perimeter checks at night around the house. Preston told his family he left a piece of himself back in the Middle East.
And the action
Lynn now has a memorial fund set up in his memory that helps veterans with PTSD work with therapy dogs. Lynn said it can cost anywhere from $10,000 to $15,000 to train and house service dogs.

The heartache

WICHITA, KanA Kansas veteran commits suicide five days after the birth of his little girl, and the men he served with are ready to take action.The people who knew Norman Worden call him a hero, a loving father and husband. He was a man who would die for the brothers he served with in Iraq. But on the inside, Norman was fighting a battle few can understand. 
“He felt he was unworthy and didn't deserve a lot of things. I would say he was a hero and he would tell me I’m far from that. I'm not a hero,” says his wife Jordahn.It was a feeling that despite his many attempts to get help, would lead Norman to take his life inside his Larned home. He leaves behind his wife, three boys and a newborn daughter. “Right before his suicide, it was surprising to me. I thought he was doing well and was excited about our daughter, like there were no signs of anything,” says Jordahn fighting back tears. 
The men he served with in the 714th on two tours in Iraq are asking how many more like Norman have to die before something else is done.
The action
They call it “Operation Sunrise” and say it’s way to bring veterans together to lean on each other for more support.They not only want to create more reunions for veterans but also provide support to get them there. Their goal is eventually to create a non-profit to help.“Seeing his brothers was important. 
Those reunions helped him. I think that's why it's important for us to get together and look forward to getting together,” says Jarvis. 

The heartache

Scars run deep for war vets returning home

Ryan Terrana went to war at 19-years-old. First in Iraq in 2007. Then in Afghanistan in 2008. He was part of the 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines, a light infantry unit on the front lines facing combat.
The action
"You don't want to lose a single person in combat, but it comes to be expected. You're going to war. You don't ever expect to lose more back home." 
Terrana admits he has self-medicated with alcohol, but says he'll continue to receive help for his PTSD through the VA and he relies on loved ones for support. 
"They know when it's serious and they drop everything."  
Recently, he and the remaining fellow marines from his unit came together for a reunion. They stay connected through Facebook, sometimes sharing news about losses, but now more aware when a guy may need help and when it's time to reach out. 
"We just have this terrible cycle that I hope stops," Terrana said. "It has slowed down." 
And then there are the countless stories of others, all around the country, sharing their heartache but doing so much more to help others prevent their own tragedy.