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44 Veterans a Day - Not 22
We're Failing Our Nation's Warriors
Both of my Grandfathers (RIP) were Veterans, my Father is a Veteran, and several of my Uncles are Veterans - I’m not done…
I am a Veteran, and both my brother and brother-in-law are currently active in the United States Army National Guard.
My sister, while not a Veteran, is one of the most patriotic and proud Americans I know; When I say that the best “Thank you” you can give is to live your life as free as you can in this country, she is doing that, and she is also the genesis for this piece; It was her idea for me to write this.
I’m still uncomfortable speaking of my service as I’m no longer in the fight, so it’s those pushing forward today who should get the focus, not the dude who’s been out for 8 years. Brie wasn’t having that; She reminded me that someone needs to be the voice and bring attention to this community, and when she said that, I saw it too so you can expect more content focused on SERVICE to be coming down the pipeline.
Needless to say, suggesting Veteran’s Day is important and means something to me is the understatement of all understatements.
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To say that I was brought up to appreciate the freedoms and liberties we have within this country would also be the shallowest surface scratch to understanding how much of a privilege it is to be an American.
We, as Americans, have become so far removed from violence and so desensitized to war that we’ve forgotten our military, the one which has kept foreign countries from stepping foot on U.S. soil, is an all-volunteer force and the men and women who sacrifice time away from their family, their lives, limbs, and minds are the reason you get to sit on the sidelines and enjoy the bounty of their labor.
These men and women are suffering in silence while returning from high tempo and heavy stress to a home life that may be chaotic in its simplicity as well as a mental health system that still, in 2022, is inadequately prepared to meet the demand and serve those in pain.
Veteran suicide-related deaths are also increasing at a greater rate than that of the general U.S. population. From 2001 to 2019, the rate of suicide among Veterans increased by nearly 36% relative to an increase of 30% in the general population.
Our Veterans are dying by their own hands and we’ve made it a joke.
We’ve watched the number sit at “22 a Day” for years, and in that time, we’ve seen funds found, and support garnered for LGBTQ+, Pronoun People, the BLM movement, and the government has actively worked to ensure that these marginalized populations were given a voice; yet the men and women who’ve given their all in defense of this country are silenced…
22 Veterans a day was the number, we’re closer to 44 today, and nobody cares except the loved ones of those suffering…
Military members need service in their lives; it’s the staff that thrusts the trident of Life (Mind, Body, Spirit) where it needs to go, and few have it once the uniform is removed and folded for the last time.
We need to look at what gives a Veteran’s life purpose…
We need to focus on keeping SERVICE integrated into the warrior’s life; they need to know they’re a part of something greater than just themselves, and therefore, others are counting on their continued existence in this world.
Sometimes those struggling just need to know that others are counting on them to continue on. That sense of connection may offer the service needed to push forward another day, another step out of the darkness within.
I recorded this two years ago, and the numbers have only gotten worse:
I do not wear any Memorial Bands as I have lived a very fortunate life; everyone I deployed multiple times with, even those who went the path of Joe-Operator, all returned home and have kept themselves from doing what the enemy couldn’t - end their lives.
I do not take this fact lightly, and it’s something which, while not at the forefront of my mind daily, is something I think of now and then. I always hope everyone is doing alright, and I do my best to ensure I’m taking care of myself as well.
“The rate of suicide among veterans may be more than double what federal officials report annually because of undercounting related to drug overdose deaths and service record errors, according to a new analysis released Saturday.
Officials from America’s Warrior Partnership, in a joint study with University of Alabama and Duke University, reviewed census death data from 2014 to 2018 for eight states and found thousands of cases of suspected or confirmed suicides not included in federal calculations.” - Military Times Sep 2022
The Military Puts You In F*cked Up Situations
When I was in BootCamp, I had to talk a man off the ledge who was talking suicide, and I did, but the dude was my first experience at seeing the mind of another break and hit the point of no hope and no light; it was wild.
While in A-School, I had a roommate slash his wrists, and I had to leap from my top bunk and wrap him in a full nelson to keep him from killing himself on the spot; my hands, arms, and face were covered in his blood; I then had to escort him around the hospital, seeing others who were in shitty places mentally.
While out to sea in a training evaluation, I awoke to a grinding and bells ringing; we’d run over a plane that failed to launch - killing all six pilots, one of which had yet to see his child who’d been born while we were underway. I had watch that night and while touring my spaces, I saw the body parts laid out in bags in the hangar bay; looking at these bags under the orange lights, knowing those were the pieces of pilots I may of walked by just hours earlier.
While deployed, I had to help several men and women get through some depressive episodes, often, these had them wondering if they were better off alive or dead. I had to pull everything I could to get them back to the light and see that their existence mattered.
These images and moments will never leave my mind, and these examples are coming from a Machinist’s Mate on an Air-Craft Carrier; imagine what’s in the head of our Special Operators, front-line door kickers, infantry, and those in other combat roles?
Those men and women have faced far worse, so what’s in their heads will be 100x what’s in mine, and even I must compartmentalize it.
Yet, we tell them to suck it up, get over it, and peacefully transition back to civilian life…
How Can You Help?
You can be there; you can be present, open for discussion, and there to offer both an ear to listen and presence to be given…
Our Veterans need more than push-ups and parades; they need you connected to them in more than a superficial manner.
What Veterans lack is connection and mission.
Vets lose their reason to fight after leaving the service, leaving them with a void in their soul. The pride, purpose, connection, and reason to get up and grind each day are replaced with an optional choice to connect to the world or be left behind, and too many are left in the dust; they become an after-thought before realizing they were supposed to integrate themselves into the world.
After being told what to do, how to do it, and when to do it, the skillset of knowing when to make a decision for themselves is a foreign concept, and the window of opportunity to ride the wave is missed, which is when these Veterans then find themselves playing catch-up and trying to fit into a world that they don’t even know if they want to be a part of.
I was in the Navy for 8 years, and the final three were on Instructor Duty, so my transition was not as abrupt as those who returned from the deployment tempo to civilian life. I had 3 years to coast down and calm down; many of my fellow servicemen and women didn’t.
What they need from you is a hand to help them find their place in the “puzzle of life”; they need someone to help them see that they still have a mission, it’s just in a different capacity than their previous role.
These Veterans need to see that there’s still gas in the tank, and they can use their lessons and experiences in other areas of life to benefit the past and future generations or educate the current generation with their unique perspective.
The key here is that connection and purpose are given to the Veteran.
Don’t think that because from the outside everything looks alright that on the inside things are fine…
This is Neal Currey, he was a married father of 6 and a former 2/75 Ranger; Neal took his life in September 2022.
Father of 6.
And still, he could not overcome the demons within.
Our Veterans need more than flags and a “Thank you”. They need their fellow Americans to be an integral part of their life, and oftentimes, that means you need to reach out to the Vet, not vice versa.
Today I’m thinking of all my family who served and this select group of brothers in arms (no particular order): Steve, Carson, Joel, Brett, Thomas, Mike, Chris, Jason, Darryl, Colton, George, Will, Paco, and Ray…
I think of you men daily.
- Zac Small
PS: Since publishing this, it has been brought to my attention that I write a lot of anti-government messages for someone who loves America.
I’ll make it clear: You can love America without loving the broken and corrupt governing body that is the U.S. Government. I love my country and what it stands for-I do not support the establishment which controls the laws and citizens within this country. Now, this piece is focused on Veterans so I will not share my political beliefs further; I’ll save that for another piece so I can share it all.
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