Last Thursday, Sept. 27 the U.S. Army took measures under its own hand. They are taking head on something that has been a plague to all the services and veterans across the nation: suicide.
Every base, every soldier from General down to Private put aside their regular training schedules, except for combat operations abroad and vital medical care to “Stand Down” on Thursday. For special training, seminars and discussion about the epidemic sweeping though the ranks. About time, I say.
The suicide rate has been the highest in the Army. It does affect all the other services, being that the U.S. Army is the largest of them all, the rates of self-inflicted death are at an all time high. So far only the U.S. Army has taken this on in this fashion. I’m sure the other branches of our military will do something similar in the near future.
I have written about this before. Being a veteran compels me to. It breaks my heart to hear of fellow GIs and veterans taking their lives. Let me say this, suicide is not the answer. It only opens the door to tragedy, pain and great loss for all involved. Something must be done. My old alma mater so to speak has taken a huge step in the right direction. One of which I’m very proud.
To say I take this issue personally is a vast understatement. In my career in the U.S. Army I have been the sad witness to many such attempts in my units and commands I was assigned to. Some of them were successful, if you want to call the bloody results that. I for one do not. At that time, little was in place to prevent suicides. Thankfully times have changed.
I won’t go into the staggering statistics this issue has been generating. I find it all deeply disturbing. I will say that the numbers of suicides in and out of the ranks of service members and veterans are sky high — hence the Army’s efforts Sept. 27. But it is just a start. Much remains to be done.
Some are scratching their heads as to why this is happening at all. Well, let’s look at some of the reasons why and see if you agree.
1. A decade plus of warfare in two separate wars overseas.
2. Multiple deployments into those war zones with no end in sight.
3. Post-traumatic stress disorder and all that goes with it.
4. The stigma attached to those seeking help. Many feel this will hurt their careers.
5. Drug and alcohol abuse.
6. Loss of hope.
These are just a few of a very long list of problems that build up to a breaking point that ends in a self-inflicted death. The U.S. Army along with other agencies involved are trying hard to remove or reduce. One big one is the stigma attached to those seeking help while on active duty. The same stigma attached to those discharged and on the streets.
A stigma that is gravely false. False in the notion that those suffering from the strains, stresses that war brings to those who survive it are crazy. WE are not. We are in pain. A great deal of pain. Pain from the physical and emotional wounds sustained, from the trauma we endured and from the mental anguish of PTSD. Some of these wounds will last a lifetime. But it does not mean we are crazy. Just in a great deal of hurt.
Alaska needs to learn all that the Army has done. Find out just what works. Learn the lessons taught during the “Stand Down.” You see Alaska as a state has the highest suicide numbers in the nation. That is a very deep and disturbing statistic. One that can be taken on and lowered. We also have largest population of veterans in entire nation as well. Obviously something must be done on both counts.
The US.Army has begun to take this problem. We must follow up on what they have started. This epidemic must stop. Our active duty members of all the branches of service are in jeopardy. Our veterans are in the same boat. We cannot let this go on. We must get them the help they need now. With no strings or stigma attached.
As a veteran I can tell you I’m not immune. No veteran or active duty GI is. There is hope, but only if one does not give in to the fatal spell suicide brings. I will post some contact numbers and internet sites for those seeking help.
Suicide is not the answer. Death is final. As a soldier I was taught this over the years: Improvise, Adapt and Overcome. This can be used by those in dire need. They know it too. Remember it don’t let the fatal spell of suicide take you. Fight it.
Those numbers are:
Veterans Crisis line — (800) 273-8255
Wasilla Veterans Center — 376-4318
U.S. Army suicide prevention program — army.mil/readyandresilient.
Wasilla resident Daniel D. Grota retired from the U.S. Army after more than 21 years of service.