The first picture reveals an all American grin, ear to ear. The eyes are bright staring straight into the camera with an eagerness and certainty that only naivety can bring.
A year later the gaze doesn’t meet the camera. The grin is the same but the jaw muscles bulge and the corners of the eyes turn down.
Then he is gone… He is quickly forgotten to all but a few close friends and family. No wall will ever carry their names.
The Army Times reports 1 military suicide every 24 hours. Eighteen military veterans a day loose their lives to suicide as well. This goes on 7 days a week, month after month and has for years. The tens of thousands lost over the course of the past decade would equal a city the size of a Kalamazoo, Michigan or Santa Monica, California.
Why survive war, enduring the most brutal conditions a human can, only to kill your self, and leave all the promise of life you dreamed about? Multiple deployments, PTSD, and drug and alcohol problems have all been linked to suicide. Marriage and family problems, job loss and unemployment are other factors.
Portrait of Risk
Months go by and even years. Your baby is born, crawls, teethes, walks and starts to talk. You see these milestones possibly once or twice by Skype. You never smell that sweet baby smell, or feel the fuzzy hair against your cheek as you rock them to sleep. Instead you crawl through dust, rock and blood in a never ending repeat of days which are all the same as the one before. No holidays, just a blur of noise, explosions and confusion that you have to make sense of quickly or die. Then you come home. You see all those you love and you know what you are supposed to do, but no feelings come. You go to work, or look for work, trying every day to be the person you were before, but instead you are like a bicycle cog missing a prong. The chain keeps jumping, but you don’t know how to fix it. You loose your job, or don’t find one. You can’t manage school because you can’t concentrate with the loud static of the combat zone still in your head. Bills pile up with no remedy. Your family drifts away because you aren’t really there anyway. Then you are alone…
Seek Help: Veterans Suicide Hotline- 1-800-273-8255, press 1, Veterans Confidential Chat- http://www.veteranscrisisline.net/ChatTermsOfService.aspx, Make a connection for veterans, family and friends- http://maketheconnection.net/
Vet Centers- veteran counselors available make an appointment or drop in, http://www2.va.gov/directory/guide/vetcenter_flsh.asp
Jason E Cooper, Michael J Peterson, Derrick Kirkland, David Stewart, Jared August Hagemann, Jason Scheuerman, Clay Hunt, Douglas Hale Jr., Jeff Lucey, Tim Bowman, Derrick Henderson, Gary Boswell, Linda Michael…