It is said that every day we lose a soldier/ veteran to suicide. A steady flow of tragedy besets the country and its families as each of these mighty men (and women) whom the nation has invested greatly into take their own life, usually after their time in service. Every day the lights go out for at least one of them.
It is cause for concern.
With all the individual, unfolding events that occur within the nation, a din of information seems to drown out key happenings that desensitize us collectively to the diverse constant losses we endure as a country. What is more, we must all pick ourselves up to go to work the next day, seek to create happiness and peace through it all and live out our lives to the best of our abilities. This is good. To keep moving forward is important, rather than to stagnate, dwell and stop forward engines.
But there must be some of us who stop to look back and tow those that have fallen, yet are not gone. There must be some of us who keep a watch on each other, less we become a collective mass of progressive marchers looking to our own gain, future and happiness. The fulfillment of God’s law encapsulates this. The Spirit says that this fulfillment is to love one another. To..love..one..another.
There is no salary for this, no bonus pay at the end of the year for guarding the hearts of others. There is no scoreboard for tracking this kind of activity and there is no quantifiable process cataloging lives saved by people who step out of the track of their lives and into the life of another, even a stranger whom they have never met. But this is God’s way. Love operates outside of the lines of understanding, reaching across boundaries, distances and all manner of obstacle to land in the right place at the right time to reach a heart.
During their time in service, our soldiers are trained in mortal combat to endure mentally and physically. They are created to withstand great pressures and kept in a battle-ready stance. The continual mindset of serving, even with one’s life carries a heavy toll, which, if not transitioned effectively into a civilian role afterwards, can and does create a sense of jadedness in the individual. There are a great number of reasons why a soldier or veteran may lose hope, and these cannot all be adequately mentioned or given due service here. Loss of limbs is a an obvious one. Fighting for our countries freedom in faraway lands to protect our liberties requires a very clear understanding to individual soldiers on how this foreign battling protects our homeland. The classic Vietnam question that has been asked has been, “Why were we there?” Soldiers ask themselves these questions and many others. The reasons why we do what we do matter. Being able to stand tall afterwards matters. Being given answers to these questions and being content with the answers are two different things also.
Beyond that and more simply put:
- What kind of civilian skills can a soldier exercise upon their return to normal, everyday life?
- How does the soldier who has done tours of duty in foreign lands acclimate to the abstract rigors of living in communities where life is far removed from the life and death realities the soldier may have faced on a recurring basis?
- How does the soldier think and live ‘back home’ after enlisting at eighteen years of age and serving his country till his mid-twenties?
- Are the transitionary steps between ending one’s call of duty and re-entering American culture sufficient enough if we are losing a soldier to suicide every day? Something is missing. Something is not being done right. There is an apparent lack of support and understanding on how to help our fellow soldiers reintegrate successfully back into the United States, if even one is taking their own life away every day.
Helping the young men (and women) find life after their service to us is integral to the fabric of this American quilt. It goes past having loads of mental health services and delves right into the philosophical reasons as to why we go to war. The issues go deep and should not just be lazily relegated to mental imbalance or a stress disorder diagnoses. That is the easy way out on addressing the causes behind soldier and veteran suicide. Could it be that the reasons we fight are important, as well as what to do after the fighting is over? Could it be that the soldiers mindsets are so set on particular modes and thinking patterns that without adequate coaching and smart support services to help re-transition into civilian life their view of their future seems hopeless?
Individual, personalized coaching support may be the key to reintegration. Personal relationships create trust and make “support services” very real. An ‘army’ of coaches, created with and managed by veterans could be the answer. Organizations like the Wounded Warrior Project personalize how to go about best helping soldiers find life after being warriors. We see warriors playing music, learning business skills and working on physically and mentally healing using arts and a variety of social development programs that send a clear message to their hearts and minds that people care about them and that they have their back.
In essence, through our actions to our veterans in organizations as the Wounded Warrior Project we give love and hope in a steady flow of valuable support. The kind of support that creates a clear, recognizable path to personal victory for each soldier. Our government should do all it can to prioritize how it cares for those who serve us on the front lines. Helping scale organizations as the one mentioned above is paramount to the well-being of our country. It comes down to that commandment to love one another over the long mile.