Are we veterans hypocrites of the highest order, to a deadly fault? How many of us have lamented the daily loss of 22 of our comrades to suicide, while at the same time attacking, belittling, ridiculing, or taunting other veterans on social media? Veterans are ruthless when there is blood in the digital waters.
However, as soon as a veteran ends his or her life, a strange phenomenon occurs. The rest of the veteran community beatifies the victim. We act as though it was a preventable tragedy “…if only this guy had reached out and asked for help!” Where were we and how were we treating these victims in the months, or even hours before their deaths? I wonder how many veterans have killed themselves after being driven, or even explicitly invited to do so on social media.
There was a moment of reflection recently when photos of Air Force Captain Jamie Brunette began to circulate on the internet a few years ago. The photo depicted a vibrant, very beautiful young officer who did not represent a person one might imagine would end her life.
Some are upset that there is more focus on her than on others who have lost their internal battles and have ended their lives. The truth is, every veteran suicide is tragic.
In short, we need to realize that we all experience trauma in different ways. What might seem like a minor occurrence to one service member, might in the context of someone else’s life be devastating. And what leads people to commit suicide is likely a combination of stressors, both service-connected, and in one’s personal life. We just need to respect and care for each other, with the empathy only we can provide as fellow veterans. After all, if we don’t support each other, no one will.
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