On Memorial Day, we take time to remember those who died in combat. We should. There are two groups who we should also remember; the family members of those who died, and those who later die by their own hand because of internal injuries sustained on the battlefield no one can see.
Veteran suicide has been in the news over the last several years and yet remains an unsolved problem. The problem in not new, but rather dates back probably to the first war between humans. War requires otherwise good people to do terrible things to survive. Most sort out the internal conflict and lead productive lives. Others suffer for years as they try to work out their turmoil. Too many find they cannot contend with the pain any longer and end their lives.
Some of the veterans who choose to end their suffering through suicide can be helped. It only takes one person to reach out and offer help like the rescue ring on a ship. If you know a combat vet who seems to be struggling with life, toss them a line. Ask them if they are thinking of killing themselves. Care enough to help them find help. Escort them to a place they will be safe. DO NOT leave him or her alone! Stay until help arrives. The ACE program (Ask, Care, Escort) is taught to every Soldier in the Army. It has helped many survive, buy someone, you, have to start by asking the question.
Family members of the dead also suffer from invisible war wounds. The military’s response to the families of fallen heroes changes with each conflict. At times, little more than a written condolence was offered. Other times assistance teams provide families a guiding hand dealing with the red tape.
Unfortunately, the families are also shunned and forgotten in their communities. They move on with their lives covering the pain in public, suffering with it in private. The gold stars they wear go unnoticed by those who do not understand the meaning. Time passes. Like combat vets, some heal well while others suffer long periods of pain.
Both combat veterans and families of fallen heroes deal with many of the same issues. On Memorial Day they remember the true cost of war, human life. They know the pain, but do not always understand why. Reaching out to a veteran or family member shows you care. Sometimes a little caring restores hope and brings comfort. Today, don’t let your Memorial Day activities end with the parade, reach out to one touched by war and care.
Vet Centers help Veterans and their families deal with a variety of issues. Find out how you can help a Vet or his family get the help they need and deserve at no cost. General Information: http://www.vetcenter.va.gov/ Bereavement Counseling: http://www.vetcenter.va.gov/bereavement_counseling.asp