I see men and women who are struggling to adapt and function in our society. They are unsure of whom to trust and fear if they get treatment they will be labeled, lose their job, lose their right to own a weapon, and lose the respect of others. Some do eventually seek help. So many others refuse help and simply withdraw from everything and everyone. Then at some point they become part of the 22.
This statistic became a lot more personal in recent weeks for my family. When our youngest son joined the Marines, one of his friends joined with him. This young man always had a smile on his face and never seemed to take anything seriously. He was just enjoying life and trying to get a good laugh. Both served in combat in different units and both eventually got out after their enlistment was over. After the Marines our son got married and of course his friend was there with that same smile on his face as always.
I had not seen his friend since the wedding a couple of years ago. He was in school in Asheville, in a Marine Corps Motorcycle group, had a girlfriend and living life. Everyone thought the world of him and assumed he was doing well.
Then a couple of weeks ago everything changed. For whatever reason this young man became part of the 22. He decided to end it all. Seemingly out of nowhere he decided he was through with it all.
My family attended his Memorial Service this past weekend held by his Marine Corp brothers who he rode motorcycles with. One thing is certain, this guy was loved by many. When my sons lived at home there was a group of friends that would hang out at our house, swimming or just hanging out. All of them were at the funeral. One, still in the Marines, flew in from California. Another drove in from Wilmington. Friends from everywhere came to pay respects to a guy loved by so many. Hundreds were in attendance.
I could not help but wonder if he really knew how many people cared for him. Had he really known, would the result have been the same? We will perhaps never know what the final straw was that pushed him over the edge.
Here is what we do know. Help is available. If you are a combat veteran you can walk in to any VA facility whether you use VA healthcare or not and tell them you are struggling and they will help you. Do not believe what you hear about the VA on the news. Our VA facilities here are great and can and will help you if you will only let them. You or your family member can call the Veterans Crisis Line any time at 1-800-273-8255 and press 1. You can confidentially chat with someone at VeteransCrisisLine.net or you can text 838255.
Learn to recognize these warning signs:
- Hopelessness; feeling like there’s no way out
- Anxiety, agitation, sleeplessness, or mood swings
- Feeling like there is no reason to live
- Rage or anger
- Engaging in risky activities without thinking
- Increasing alcohol or drug misuse
- Withdrawing from family and friends
If you are a family member or a friend of a combat Veteran, be there for them. Check on them often and do not let them withdraw from society. Have their battle buddies contact them and check on them. While no longer in combat, sometimes the war continues to rage inside for years if help is not sought.
Don’t think it just happens to young Veterans. Over 50% of the 22 are Vietnam War Veterans who have silently suffered for over 40 years.
Starting on March 5th at 7:30 p.m. there will be a support group starting in Lincolnton at Highland Drive Church. It will be led by a Combat Veteran Joey Briggs with the sole purpose of providing a place for Combat Veterans to share with others who have and are facing battles in their daily lives and to let you know what resources are available to help you.
Call our office or call Joey at 704-860-7751 for more details.
Veterans please don’t transfer the pain to your loved ones by becoming one of the 22. Seek the help you need and deserve. Call the hotline, call a friend, call a loved one, call us, just call someone when you feel you can no longer manage or just need to talk. Our office always stands ready to assist you.
Rest in Peace Thomas. You are missed.
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