Speaking at the Veterans Resource Fair

Tomorrow evening I’ll be the keynote speaker at the Veteran Resource Fair at then 50+ Center in Ellicott City. I’ll also be doing a breakout session on Post-Traumatic Stress Injury (PTSI). So I’ve been pondering at length what to say.

I want to tell the veterans how much respect I have for them. And I want to emphasize to them that they have each other. In preparing the speech, I wrote the following:

“Being with soldiers and Marines in combat taught me something I want to pass on to you: the strongest bond possible between two human beings comes into existence when they fight side by side against a common enemy. Soldiers and Marines don’t use the word love—that’s too sentimental for them. But it is love. The strongest love I’ve ever witnessed and felt myself. I grieve to this day for the men who fought beside me and died.”

In the breakout session on PTSI, I want the others to know that I’m one of them—I suffer from it, too. And I want them to know how widespread and serious PTSI is. Here’s part of what I wrote:

“I learned that, according to a VA estimate, nearly one out of every three Vietnam vets suffers from PTSI. The number for Iraq vets is one out of every five. Since I’ve seen evidence that untreated PTSI becomes more acute with the passage of time, my guess is that affected vets from Iraq and Afghanistan will eventually approach those for Vietnam vets.

“By one estimate, an average of 22 veterans take their own lives each day. Some people debate that number from the VA, says Steve Danyluk, who worked with wounded service members after returning from a tour in Iraq with the Marines, ‘but I think anybody that served in a combat unit can run through a list of people that they know that committed suicide.’”

People who have never been in the military or anywhere near combat have no comprehension of PTSI. But we vets, who are brothers and sisters to each other, we know. Our job is to help each other. Our job is to comfort and sustain. Our job is to find our way home and help others to find it, too.

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