I’m deeply disturbed by statistics that show high suicide rates among veterans and active duty military. Twenty veterans a day die by suicide. Wikipedia offers the following chart:
|Annual number of suicides per 100,000 population. 2000-2010.|
Why do more people who have seen military service die by their own hands? The sources don’t offer reasons, but I think I know.
Men and women who have put their lives on the line for their country know what it means to face death. Those who were in combat witnessed death up close in its ghastliest form. Those memories never fade. And as one ages, the memories we’ve been able to consign to our subconscious come back to haunt us as flashbacks, panic attacks, and nightmares.
I suffer from those memories from my repeated combat experiences. I know what it’s like to be at the point of saying I can’t stand any more. I’ve never been suicidal, but I tried to drown memories in alcohol. It doesn’t work. All one can do is cope, come to terms with the past, learn to live with the memories.
What’s helped me and what I use with other veterans is to arouse pride. We can all be proud of our service to our country, especially if we lived through combat. We offered the last full measure of devotion.
And if called upon, we’d do it again. Greater love hath no man.