According to the Military Times, September 2018, “In 2016, the most recent data available, the suicide rate for veterans was 1.5 times greater than for Americans who never served in the military. About 20 veterans a day across the country take their own lives, and veterans accounted for 14 percent of all adult suicide deaths in the U.S. in 2016, even though only 8 percent of the country’s population has served in the military.”
I have no data on why vets kill themselves, but in my soul I’m sure I know.
Veterans are men and women who have pledged to put their lives on the line for their country and their fellow citizens. They know they face death. Those who have served in combat have seen death up close. Death in combat is more hideous than the imagination can grasp.
Combat leaves behind the curse of post-traumatic stress. Once inflicted, the disease never weakens. The victim must have the sheer courage and stamina to resist the unspeakable memories and learn to manage them.
Sometimes, it’s too much. Sometimes, it feels like ceasing to live would be better than facing the memories. Sometimes death is better than going on living.
We veterans can help each other. Just finding out that I’m not alone in my torment makes a huge difference. All veterans are my brothers, and I reach out to them whenever I can. We don’t have to talk. We know by a look in the eyes, a touch of the hand on a shoulder, a quiet nod. We can say to one another without ever speaking a word: “I’m with you, brother. You’re not alone. I’ve been there, too. Let’s weather this together.”
Every time I hear of another suicide, I feel like I’ve failed. My brother is gone without ever knowing I was with him.