Growing up in what used to be a “base town”—next door to Mathar AFB and close to both McClellan and Travis AFB—we had no shortage of warriors in our community. They have been one of the biggest influences and blessings in my life. Our churches, friendships and families are forever intertwined within the military and veteran community.
When I saw the statistic that 22 veterans and one active duty soldier commits suicide every day in the United States—I was heartbroken. It’s never been a number to me. All I can see are the faces of so many people I love and think that it could have been one of them.
It shouldn’t be ANY of these soldiers. Something has to change!
In these eight stories you can see the real life consequences of PTSD and suicide as well as some of the ways this community is fighting through and persevering. Each of these people have agreed to talk about their hardest moments in an effort to help someone else.
That is my definition of a hero.
Check out these amazing stories and tips. If you are also dealing with PTSD be sure to check out the list of resources at the end!
1. Speak up for others who can’t always speak for themselves.
Help Veterans Heal focuses on the importance of art and the positive benefits it can have on Veterans and their families. Art can play a role in beginning to deal with what you were exposed to by signing on the dotted line.
2. Find a healthy escape and pour yourself into it.
“As a thirteen year U.S. Marine Corps Veteran, I have been scarred from overexposure to violent conditions, despair and hopelessness that have become a part of who I am. There are pieces of me I do not remember, parts I do not know, and sections that are buried deep within my subconscious. It is only through my art and lifted awareness that I am able to access these parts of my being to begin to put the pieces back together. My journey as an artist is therapeutic for me on many levels and feel it should be prescribed more as an effective medicine for the wounded. My art is my love, my life, and my passionate expression.”
—Buggsy Malone, Director of Help Veterans Heal and former Marine and Army soldier
3. You are never, ever, beyond hope.
“Veterans like Cameron, who was living under a bridge in far north Houston when a sheriff’s deputy told him about Camp Hope. His response was respectful but abrupt, “I’m beyond hope.” A week later he changed his mind and became a resident. Six months later he is back at home with his wife and two small children in San Antonio, and he is assisting in new combat trauma support groups in the area. This is what can happen when the community truly understands what it means to support the troops!"
—PTSD Foundation of America offers** Camp Hope** for individuals and families like Cameron (above), among several other outlets and services to help veterans across America.
4. Pay it forward—the need never stops, so neither should the help.
—Lisa and Jeff Naslund lost son Army Sgt Dillon Naslund (above) when he committed suicide at age 25 after fighting PTSD. They continue to pay it forward by working with Operation Engage America. For more information watch the PBS documentary Dillion: A True Story.
5. Families are victims of PTSD, too. There’s no better time to ban together to help each other through.
—Wanda Niemi was married to a veteran who dealt with PTSD. She used her story to connect with—and help—others through her book When They Come Back Missing.
6. Above all else—fight PTSD for those you love.
“When PTSD comes, I go out to nature. When I feel sad, I hold on to the glad. If there is ever a doubt why I am here or why I continue to live, love answers: for those who love you!”
—Mykel Hawke is a ret. U.S. Army Special Forces Green Beret, survival expert and star of several television shows- most recently The Travel Channel’s series Lost Survivors.
7. You will change—the important thing is for those around you to change with you.
“My wife says she has been married to three different men, and all of them are me: the man she married; the one who came back from Iraq; and the one who came back from Afghanistan. I think we all miss the first guy.”
—Robert Austin served 11 years in the Air Force with deployments to both Iraq and Afghanistan. For more of Robert’s story read Suicide is Painful.
8. Turn your story into a way to help others.
“The craziest thing about my husband’s suicide was that I, nor anyone else, ever saw it coming. Never in a million years would I have thought he would have taken his own life. The military needs to find ways to make these soldiers go through some sort of counseling when they return from deployments. My son was 7 ½ months old when his dad passed away. The best thing I finally did for myself was start seeing a counselor to help with all of my emotions and feelings. She taught me that it’s okay to move on with your life and be happy, yet remember your loved one.”
—Stephanie McLean, widow of a veteran dealing with PTSD
Many of our military and their families never thought that the biggest battle of their lives would be fought here at home. Their courage, perseverance and willingness to never leave a battle buddy behind- abroad or at home- is a testament to the fortitude and character of this amazing community. Thank you so much for sharing your stories with me.
For immediate help, contact the National Suicide Prevention Hotline - 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or the** Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, or send a text message to 838255.**
If you or someone you know are suffering from PTSD, there are so many additional people, organizations and apps that can help.
Check out these links for more assistance and information:
Don’t see your favorite organization? Let us know who has helped you in the comments below.** Infographic: Designed by Amanda PageSourced from:**
Jennifer Rackley is a nutritionist and mother of three girls. Two of her children have dealt with acid reflux disease, food allergies, migraines, and asthma. She has a Bachelor of Science in dietetics from Harding University and has done graduate work in public health and nutrition through Eastern Kentucky University. In addition to writing for HealthCentral, she does patient consults and serves on the Board of Directors for the Pediatric Adolescent Gastroesophageal Reflux Association.