I met another Veteran once who had the answer. The story goes like this;
I was working as a Paramedic in one of the many urban neighborhoods in our area. We responded to a house for an elderly gentleman with chest pain. I assess him and determine he needs transport to the hospital right down the road.
I was having one of those days, I was going through the motions and trying just to complete a 24-hour shift so I could go home. I must have had that thousand-yard stare on my face, because the patient asked me this. “How long where you in the service?”
I look up and notice that he has a WWII Veterans ball cap on. 82nd Airborne to be precise. A “D-Day” Vet, I guess if anyone could spot a fellow Veteran it would be this man. We get to talking, and we have many similar experiences. I ask him, “Do the headaches and bad dreams ever go away?”
His response was gut wrenching. “No.” he says
But what he said next changed my entire perspective on how things were progressing in my life, he said “…you just learn to live with it. You wake up, you put on your shoes and go into the world and get the job done. And it helps to have the love of a good woman. A support structure that is always there for you like family and friends is the key. And don’t forget God. Theres no better support than Jesus son…”
Most will never know what it is like. The headaches. The cold sweats after waking up from a horrific nightmare. The panic attacks that swarm one’s thoughts and heart at the drop of a hat.
Like so many of my Brother and Sister Veterans, the afflictions of PTSD can be overwhelming and at times lead you to find a “cure” on your own.
With little to know help from the Veterans Affairs hospitals, many of us are left to try and fix this on our own. The VA throws pills at the Veterans like tic-tacs. Too many pills. Some of us turn to alcohol. Drinking ourselves into an early grave.
Others turn to drugs and prescription meds. Why not? The VA has half of us hooked on pain killers anyway.
And sadly, some of my Brothers and Sisters turn to a, more permanent solution.
The fear of everything just becomes overwhelming and it is just “…simpler if the world didn’t have me in it…”. How do I know this? Because I have had these thoughts. I have had these fears. I have sat there with a gun in my hand and thought long and hard about the consequences of just ending it all.
I never did realize until I was so close to pulling the trigger, that I have a phenomenal support structure. A wife that is truly God Sent. Friends that I can turn to at a moment’s notice, and Brother and Sister Veterans that are always there to help me through the worst of it.
This verse has saved me more times than I can count.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
According to studies done a few years back, 22 Veterans commit suicide everyday. What’s even worse is that that number is probably even WAY higher now. We can’t be certain, because the studies just stopped.
This insanity has to stop. We need to look out for each other. There are a few groups out there like GallantFew.org , Battle Buddy, Guitars for Vets are doing what we can to help. But it is up to individuals to get involved, to stand up and say they will be their Brother’s Keeper. To fight the fear together.
ISAIAH 41:10 says:
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
You don’t have to be afraid. Alone. Lost. You can rely on Brother and Sister Veterans to help you “Soldier On”.
Don’t forget, God can be an amazing Battle Buddy too, if you let him.