An Open Letter To Those Who Forget Those Who Fought For Us All

An Open Letter To Those Who Forget Those Who Fought For Us All

We would not have the freedom to create what we love without them.

187
views

Without the bravery of millions of men and women throughout US history, many of us would not be sitting at our laptops reading or even creating free expressions of ourselves.

We might not be able to walk across campus without fear for our lives. Without the sacrifice of those who served, the great country we call home would not even be a reality. Whether we know them personally or not, the American people owe every ounce of freedom that we enjoy to the veterans who fought to preserve it.

For the soldiers who made it home again, the physical war was over, but the mental war was just beginning. And what makes it worse is that they cannot identify the enemy. There is no battle plan, no intended mission, and no officer leading them through the fray; they are alone, and cannot find the enemy to face in the shadows.

Veterans come home with so many different battle scars; some as obvious as a missing limb, and others so invisible that no one realizes that they are there until it is too late. Mental illness and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) plague returning soldiers and make it almost impossible for them to assimilate back into their own families, let alone society.

There is a toxic mentality that is all too popular in the military that tries to say that PTSD is for the weak and feeble-minded. Sometimes serving for years in foreign lands, some soldiers claim that any form of weakness gets you killed or captured on the battlefield. Coming home with this same mentality creates a toxic environment in which veterans refuse to seek help and the nightmares that they endured overseas haunt them until they cannot take it anymore.

There were soldiers that did not make it home at all, and some that were carried off planes in a box draped in the flag of their beloved country. Many of those who died did so to give their friends the chance to see the home and the families that they themselves would never lay eyes on again. They did not die just for their friends to come home to sleep on benches, having been kicked out of their houses or unable to hold a job. They did not die for their friends to come home only to put a needle to their arm, a bottle to their lips, or a pistol to their head.

Every day, 22 veterans and active-duty soldiers commit suicide. That means approximately every 65 minutes, a veteran has taken his or her life somewhere in the United States, the country that forgot them after they gave up so much for it. This statistic is inexcusable for our nation, and in other areas, the bar is just as low.

The vets with physical wounds alongside their mental ones who seek help must yet again face another battle; this time being with the healthcare system and all of its heavy expenses.

They usually get bags of over-prescribed drugs thrown at them as well as opioids rather than the physical and mental therapy that they need and deserve. The drugs turn the veterans into addicts, and as the pain continues to intensify on both the physical and mental fronts, they take more and more to numb the pain. This way, many reach overdose, and even death.

Mental illness, PTSD, lack of adequate treatment, and physical impairment all make it practically impossible for a soldier to get and keep a job, which could start a downward spiral into homelessness.

Despite the efforts that government organizations such as the Veterans Affairs have set in motion, the programs implemented have had minimal effect upon the crisis at hand. With a broken system and so many odds stacked against them, so many veterans have lost faith in the country that they fought so hard for, the same country that left them to their own nightmares in the alleyways and dark corners of cities. This is a humanitarian crisis that defines who we are as a nation.

I understand that many people may call a different crisis to mind that they think should take priority over getting these heroes off the streets. However, without all the sacrifices that the millions who served have made to protect America and everything it stands for, most other issues in this country would not even be plausible, let alone resolvable. This country is a beacon of hope to the world, and so many risks their own lives as well as their children's to come here. But without those who protected our liberty, there would be no liberty to flock to.

I want to imagine a United States that successfully integrates veterans back into society, that has the programs and the willpower to get them back on their feet and out of the shadows of the horrors they faced overseas.

But more than that, I want to imagine an American people that turn around to help pay the debt that those who fought for our freedom never asked us to repay. Because after all, freedom isn't free.

Popular Right Now

To The Person Who Feels Suicidal But Doesn't Want To Die

Suicidal thoughts are not black and white.
1625147
views

Everyone assumes that if you have suicidal thoughts that means you want to die.

Suicidal thoughts are thought of in such black-and-white terms. Either you have suicidal thoughts and you want to die, or you don't have suicidal thoughts and you want to live. What most people don't understand is there are some stuck in the gray area of those two statements, I for one am one of them.

I've had suicidal thoughts since I was a kid.

My first recollection of it was when I came home after school one day and got in trouble, and while I was just sitting in the dining room I kept thinking, “I wonder what it would be like to take a knife from the kitchen and just shove it into my stomach." I didn't want to die, or even hurt myself for that matter. But those thoughts haven't stopped since.

I've thought about going into the bathroom and taking every single pill I could find and just drifting to sleep and never waking back up, I've thought about hurting myself to take the pain away, just a few days ago on my way to work I thought about driving my car straight into a tree. But I didn't. Why? Because even though that urge was so strong, I didn't want to die. I still don't, I don't want my life to end.

I don't think I've ever told anyone about these feelings. I don't want others to worry because the first thing anyone thinks when you tell them you have thoughts about hurting or killing yourself is that you're absolutely going to do it and they begin to panic. Yes, I have suicidal thoughts, but I don't want to die.

It's a confusing feeling, it's a scary feeling.

When the depression takes over you feel like you aren't in control. It's like you're drowning.

Every bad memory, every single thing that hurt you, every bad thing you've ever done comes back and grabs you by the ankle and drags you back under the water just as you're about the reach the surface. It's suffocating and not being able to do anything about it.

The hardest part is you never know when these thoughts are going to come. Some days you're just so happy and can't believe how good your life is, and the very next day you could be alone in a dark room unable to see because of the tears welling up in your eyes and thinking you'd be better off dead. You feel alone, you feel like a burden to everyone around you, you feel like the world would be better off without you. I wish it was something I could just turn off but I can't, no matter how hard I try.

These feelings come in waves.

It feels like you're swimming and the sun is shining and you're having a great time until a wave comes and sucks you under into the darkness of the water. No matter how hard you try to reach the surface again a new wave comes and hits you back under again, and again, and again.

And then it just stops.

But you never know when the next wave is going to come. You never know when you're going to be sucked back under.

I always wondered if I was the only one like this.

It didn't make any sense to me, how did I think about suicide so often but not want to die? But I was thinking about it in black and white, I thought I wasn't allowed to have those feelings since I wasn't going to act on them. But then I read articles much like this one and I realized I'm not the only one. Suicidal thoughts aren't black and white, and my feelings are valid.

To everyone who feels this way, you aren't alone.

I thought I was for the longest time, I thought I was the only one who felt this way and I didn't understand how I could feel this way. But please, I implore you to talk to someone, anyone, about the way you're feeling, whether it be a family member, significant other, a friend, a therapist.

My biggest mistake all these years was never telling anyone how I feel in fear that they would either brush me off because “who could be suicidal but not want to die?" or panic and try to commit me to a hospital or something. Writing this article has been the greatest feeling of relief I've felt in a long time, talking about it helps. I know it's scary to tell people how you're feeling, but you're not alone and you don't have to go through this alone.

Suicidal thoughts aren't black and white, your feelings are valid, and there are people here for you. You are not alone.

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline — 1-800-273-8255


Cover Image Credit: BengaliClicker

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

If You Are Looking For A Way To Support Veterans, Consider Honor Flight

Honor Flight is a great organization that gives veterans the support and recognition they deserve.

92
views

A World War II veteran sits on a bus, unable to move, overtaken by emotions. He's not sure he can face the task at hand. The memories of the day he lost his arm overwhelm him. He has never been able to talk about it. Suddenly, other veterans surround him. They urge him to brave the Iwo Jima memorial, the battle where he was wounded. Encouraged yet nervous, he leaves the bus and visits the memorial. As he gazes at the site, he finally has begun to gain closure about his experiences. This story is what Honor Flight represents.

Honor Flight Network, an all-volunteer charitable organization, provides a valuable service to elderly U.S. veterans by giving them a free trip to the Washington D.C. war memorials. These flight missions are carried out by 130 regional hubs across the country. In 2018, they transported 20,958 veterans.

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, an estimated 640 WWII veterans die each day. The World War II memorial was opened in 2004. By then, a lot of the veterans had grown older and had become physically and financially incapable of going to their own memorial. Before the memorial was finished, many veterans weren't getting the honor they deserve. Honor Flight seeks to address both of these issues by making their main objective giving World War II heroes the honor they deserve before they all leave their country.

The details of each trip vary from group to group across the nation, but the main focus is visiting the memorials. The following is an example of a typical trip. The first day is an orientation where the guardians and veterans meet together. Honor Flight gives preference to veteran applicants in the following order: veterans who are terminally ill, those who served in World War II, Korean War veterans, and more recently, Vietnam War veterans. A Guardian is a volunteer, sometimes family, who travels with the veterans to watch over them and help them with any needs.

Four trained paramedics travel with them on every flight. On the actual day of the flight, they meet at the airport early in the morning and go through security together. They receive breakfast at the gate and board the Southwest airplane. As the plane rolls down the runway, firetrucks line up and shoot a water cannon salute over the plane. They fly to Washington D.C. and exit the plane to a military receiving line. Volunteers guide them through the airport to the busses that will take them to their war memorials. Once they are loaded on the busses, police officers ride alongside the bus and escort them to their first stop, the changing of the guard at Arlington National Cemetery. The next three memorials they visit are Women in Service, Iwo Jima, which highlights the marines, and the Air Force Memorial.

After lunch, the veterans are taken to the World War II memorial, the highlight of the trip. Sometimes, members of Congress and local TV stations are there to honor and meet the veterans. At times, World War II re-enactors are present at the memorial to interact and thank the veterans for their service. The reenactors spark the memories of the veterans, reminding them of when they were younger and what life was like in the 1940s. Then, they all then take a group picture and afterward go to the Vietnam Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, and their final stop, the Korean War Memorial. When it is over, they all board the buses that will take them back to the airport. The quiet mood in the busses provides the veterans with a time of recollection.

Before getting on the plane, letters expressing thanks and honor from people, such as family and friends, are given to the veterans. When they return to their hometown, the veterans are greeted with signs of thanks and a huge crowd thanks them and honors them, while music plays.

The reactions of the veterans are very solemn. When they look upon the memorials, they become very silent and shed some tears as they reflect on past memories. Many of the veterans have to be convinced to come on the flights because they don't think they deserve it, but once they are there, they form bonds with the other veterans and guardians. Visiting these memorials gives them the closure they need to handle their experiences in the war. Being around people who have shared the same feelings allows them to tell stories about their time in the war. Many veterans feel honored in a way they never felt before. Also, they are able to grieve for their fellow friends who died in battle.

One veteran, who was in the Navy during the Vietnam War, was given a day off from his duties on the ship. While he was gone, another soldier took his place. Later, the boat was destroyed, and everyone on it was killed. At the memorial, this veteran found the name of his replacement on the wall and rubbed an imprint of the name on a piece of paper. Nancy Riordan, an active member of Honor Flight of Central Florida, explained, "we believe our Veterans have honored us with their service, and it is our mission to honor them."

In Orlando, where I live, veterans travel with Honor Flight of Central Florida. Their website will connect you with fundraising events and upcoming flight information. If you are interested in welcoming the veterans back from their trip, the 2019 spring flight dates are May 4th and June 15th. Fall flight dates will be announced at a later date. My family and I have participated in the past, and it was great seeing the smiles on the veterans' faces. My aunt took her dad on an Honor Flight mission in Colorado, and I wrote letters for their mail call.

As Harry S. Truman said in his address to Congress in 1945, "Our debt to the heroic men and valiant women in the service of our country can never be repaid. They have earned our undying gratitude. America will never forget their sacrifices."

Related Content

Facebook Comments