On Memorial Day, we remember those who served our country and died in combat. But what about the veterans who die by suicide after the war? Many of our troops fight a different battle, waged within their own minds, upon returning home.
My father served in the military for 25 years, every minute of it with integrity. He dedicated his life to this country, gave up family time, and his own mental health. But his real battle started after his service was complete. Retirement, and settling into life after the military, was bittersweet as his inner struggles came to the surface.
I remember as a child, asking him what it was like to fight in Desert Storm. His face turned cold and he responded with a simple, “We don’t talk about this.” I never questioned him again, but I always wondered what went on in his mind.
My father died by suicide just three years after retiring from the Navy. It was heartbreaking. My dad, my hero, had been in combat within his own mind, and I had no idea.
Every day we lose 20 veterans to suicide. 20 percent of America’s suicide deaths are veterans. AFSP is dedicated to changing this statistic, and has funded research on the military and veterans, because one veteran dying by suicide is one to many.
Many veterans attach a sense of shame to asking for help. They feel it’s important to keep up a strong persona. Many do not realize that asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of strength.
It is everyone’s responsibility to take care of our veterans, because they have sacrificed so much for us and our country. The military is a very close-knit environment of like-minded individuals, and transitioning back to civilian life can make veterans feel disconnected. It is important that they feel connected with their families, friends, and community.
This Memorial Day, I will remember those who lost their lives in service, but I will also honor those who lost their lives when facing their personal battle upon returning home. These heroic men and women deserve recognition.
If you are concerned about a veteran who may be suicidal, you can call the Veteran’s Hotline number (1-800-273-8255) for guidance, or chat on their website. You can also find more information specific to veterans at the Veteran’s Crisis Line website.