I belong to a group on Facebook which deals with veteran suicide. There is a question posted today which has engaged my gears. “Who benefits if a soldier chooses to not commit suicide?” Existential questions have no real answers, not easy ones anyway. As a veteran, I worry about my brothers and sisters, the suicide rates are astronomical in the veteran community. 22 a day is a catch phrase, when you start digging, it is upwards toward fifty a day. To get down to the meat of the issue you first must ask the question, “Why do our veterans commit suicide?”
As with existential questions, there are no easy answers. The easy answer is depression. We come home to our families, and we are out of touch with the reality of home. For me, the calmness of home felt like a trap. In the roar of combat, you don’t have time to think, only time to react. We lash out in anger, and because it is war, anger is accepted as an answer. Because of the horror we see, and the losses we experience, our humor becomes dark. We take pride in saying outrageous things and getting away with it.
Then we come home and everything changes.
The biggest issue in my life is silence. I am sure it is the same for most veterans. In the quiet, memories resurface. We have been trained to kill the enemies of our country, but we have no idea how to deal with the mental side of war. Our coping mechanisms include alcohol and pills, illegal drugs, and other vices. We are constantly seeking some way to replicate the feeling of combat. To somehow find a way to silence the memories which haunt us. Tearfully, we search for some way to bind the demons which rage in our minds, but we are powerless to chain them.
People who we think will never leave, abandon us. Friends who once laughed at our jokes, now look at us like we are some alien species from beyond the stars. We feel alone, and loneliness leads to silence. The quietness leads to a question, “Why not do them all a favor and end it here?”
Then without warning, the silence is broken.
9 November 2019
P.S. If you are suicidal, it is to your benefit to keep moving forward. It is dark right now, but you can make it. While it may seem like suicide is the answer, it isn’t. The world needs survivors, people who have walked through the darkness and found their way home. Find someone who will listen and unburden your heart. We are here for you.
Suicide Hotline: 1-800-273-8255