An Open Letter To The People Who Forget Our Veterans

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.

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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.

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Everything You Will Miss If You Commit Suicide

The world needs you.
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You won't see the sunrise or have your favorite breakfast in the morning.

Instead, your family will mourn the sunrise because it means another day without you.

You will never stay up late talking to your friends or have a bonfire on a summer night.

You won't laugh until you cry again, or dance around and be silly.

You won't go on another adventure. You won't drive around under the moonlight and stars.

They'll miss you. They'll cry.

You won't fight with your siblings only to make up minutes later and laugh about it.

You won't get to interrogate your sister's fiancé when the time comes.

You won't be there to wipe away your mother's tears when she finds out that you're gone.

You won't be able to hug the ones that love you while they're waiting to wake up from the nightmare that had become their reality.

You won't be at your grandparents funeral, speaking about the good things they did in their life.

Instead, they will be at yours.

You won't find your purpose in life, the love of your life, get married or raise a family.

You won't celebrate another Christmas, Easter or birthday.

You won't turn another year older.

You will never see the places you've always dreamed of seeing.

You will not allow yourself the opportunity to get help.

This will be the last sunset you see.

You'll never see the sky change from a bright blue to purples, pinks, oranges, and yellows meshing together over the landscape again.

If the light has left your eyes and all you see is the darkness, know that it can get better. Let yourself get better.

This is what you will miss if you leave the world today.

This is who will care about you when you are gone.

You can change lives. But I hope it's not at the expense of yours.

We care. People care.

Don't let today be the end.

You don't have to live forever sad. You can be happy. It's not wrong to ask for help.

Thank you for staying. Thank you for fighting.

Suicide is a real problem that no one wants to talk about. I'm sure you're no different. But we need to talk about it. There is no difference between being suicidal and committing suicide. If someone tells you they want to kill themselves, do not think they won't do it. Do not just tell them, “Oh you'll be fine." Because when they aren't, you will wonder what you could have done to help. Sit with them however long you need to and tell them it will get better. Talk to them about their problems and tell them there is help. Be the help. Get them assistance. Remind them of all the things they will miss in life.

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

Cover Image Credit: Brittani Norman

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The Air Force's Basic Training Has Changed Since I Enlisted, And Not For The Better

Since I enlisted in 2007, the training structure has undergone many changes to grow and adapt with the modern times.

yahairas
yahairas
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A lot has changed in the last 13 years since my enlistment in the United States Air Force. The cause of these changes being a change in direction and the progression of modern society. What worked 13 years ago definitely wouldn't work in 2019.

Before I separated from the military in 2013, I remember hearing murmurs of the things that were going on in the training environment at Lackland Air Force Base. Newly reporting Airmen and recent Military Training Instructors coming from Lackland added to the many murmurs.

We could see from the quality of Airmen reporting to their new duty stations, that the training had undergone some changes. Right as I was transitioning from Basic Training to the Security Forces Technical School, we were informed of new training regimens to hopefully improve the quality of information trainees would be subjected to. One change was the extended training time.

In 2007, Air Force BMT was known to have the shortest training time compared to the other military branches. Basic Training was six weeks long. Six long weeks, from the perspective of trainees being pushed through, but to the instructors pushing flights every six weeks, it was a blur. BMT went from six weeks to eight weeks. It does not seem like a huge leap, and trainees entering into that new training environment would not know any better, not having experienced the six-week training earlier airmen experienced.

2013 brought about a chain of events that would lead to the new training experience for BMT trainees and instructors alike. A sex scandal involving trainees and instructors broke news, making it the worst scandal in Air Force history. Thirty-three instructors were brought under investigation for allegations of misconduct with 63 trainees and tech school students.

Sexual misconduct, in general, is a serious issue no matter where it happens. This type of misconduct coming from leaders that are supposed to supervise and train future leaders in the United States military comes across more severe because of where it is coming from. Being accused of sexual misconduct, true or not, places a dark cloud over everyone involved. It affects the victim, the accused and in this case the United States Air Force.

Although it is a given that any misconduct should be reported, since the scandal, the Air Force ensured to stress the importance of the zero-tolerance mentality when regarding sexual misconduct of any kind. Perception is reality.

The morale of instructors in that environment was on the lower end of the spectrum. Many felt any minor misstep could cost them their careers. This belief may have resulted in the softer handling of trainees at Lackland. Instructors believed the changes within BMT left them with undisciplined trainees. The fear that a trainee's word, even if what they say was false, would be taken as truth, resulting in instructors tip-toeing around in order to avoid losing the careers they worked hard to build.

A survey was conducted, involving 237 unnamed MTIs. Results of the survey showed that less than 35% of the 237 instructors believed trainees respected their authority.

"We are not setting these trainees up for the Air Force outside of BMT. Instead, we are sheltering them and giving them unrealistic low expectations of what is waiting for them outside of these dormitories," says one of the 237 unnamed MTIs in the survey.

Another MTI in the survey says training should be hard and the trainees should feel a sense of accomplishment. This MTI goes on to say, "The poor product we are pushing out now has become the standard. I really hope I'm not around to see the next war."

These are the opinions of some MTIs that have the first-hand experience in dealing with the new trainees enlisting in the military. When considering the mission of the Air Force, the future appears bleak.

yahairas
yahairas

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