Suicide and military service. Why do things go so wrong?

Yesterday, I was at the flea market. To pass the time, some of us get together and exchange stories of our past, memories that we now find humorous. It was no different from any other day yesterday. Me and another gentleman were exchanging stories while we waited for the first customer of the day to arrive.

“Raymond, we were out doing rollover training. It is when they put you in the metal frame of a Humvee and roll you over 4-5 times. Then you have to leave the vehicle after you unbuckle yourself upside down. I was told by this one guy that some soldiers flipped a Humvee one day and all you could hear coming from the vehicle was, Rollover, Rollover!” Raymond laughed and the first customer arrived as I was finishing my story. He laughed and he asked if I had served.

As we stood there talking he told me that his son had spent fifteen years in the Special Forces. That is an impressive stint, given the high op-tempo those guys face. Grueling is the word one would apply to their work. He then informed me that his son took his own life. Instantly, tears came to my eyes. Emotions flooded my system and I had no idea what to do. Sadness, anger, frustration all of these emotions buffeted me. I didn’t know what else to do so I put my arm around him and told him that I was sorry. The biggest emotion that I felt though was relief.

Throughout the years, I have faced my own battles with suicidal thoughts. I even planned it one time. Luckily, I am sort of dumb. Talking comes second nature to me, and I would often spout off about my plans. People intervened in my case (mainly because they were aware of it). Between my faith and determination to prove everyone wrong, I was able to turn the corner. Yet, my heart is broken for this man. A flag and a Gold Star doesn’t come close to replacing the void left in our hearts when we lose our family and friends to suicide.

You will have to excuse me this morning. I am emotionally raw. Alcohol, pills and other vices don’t come close to bringing the peace that many of our service members need. Solitude is nice but when the darkness comes, solitude is the last thing that they need. I closed my eyes last night, but my brain refused to shut down. Why do so many of our soldiers take their lives when they return home from combat?

This question haunts me. Many of us see speaking to someone with no experience in the military as futile. How will they ever understand? Personally, I allowed my pride to stand in the way of my healing. It was a long period of time before I sought help. Even then, my attempts were half-hearted. Then it came to a point where someone else made the choice for me.

As I sit here this morning, I recognize how grateful I am that I had people in my life that were aware of my thoughts. I am glad that they intervened when they did. Otherwise, things may have turned out differently. However, there are many other people who face the same battle and we must find a way to help them find peace. It is imperative that we help our veterans find a way to adjust to life in the civilian sector.

If you are an individual who prays, please whisper a prayer for our men and women who are in the military. They need to know that someone understands what they are going through. May God richly bless them and keep them safe.

This blog has taken a toll on me this morning. I am going to cut it off here. You guys take care.

Freeman out.

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