Veterans in Crisis: Don't Let Them Give Up the Fight
Today's the Fourth of July, 2016. It's a beautiful day in northern Illinois. It's quiet, except for the birds who sing their morning song. I feel an air of peace embrace me. I pray for this feeling to last, knowing full well it will not.
I've just paid my respects to the Vietnam veterans honored by the LZ Peace and LZ Orange memorials in my hometown. For me, it's an annual trek. One memorial is to those who died "In Country" and the other is to those who continue to suffer and die from the effects of having been "In Country." They represent my generation of friends and neighbors. Some are at rest. Others are restless.
The grounds are well maintained. The lawn is well manicured. Nonetheless, like the dawn, its quiet will soon surrender to the sounds of children, pets, and their families. The bike path that runs past the memorials is about to come alive for the holiday. And I wouldn't have it any other way. Life is to be celebrated, despite having just paid my respects to those who have died.
We must not forget that the list of living veterans has increased by thousands upon thousands since Vietnam, having served in such faraway places as Iraq and Afghanistan. The physical environments may change, but the resulting emotional scarring can be very similar. Their war can follow them home, too.
Let's not forget today's veterans. Many are in crisis. Reach out to them. Be their friend. Don't let them become hidden casualties. You don't need to be a health care professional to simply listen. I found the blue dog tags, pictured above, wrapped around a stick and leaned up against the black granite wall of the memorial. There are real, caring people out there waiting to help. Give our veterans a fighting chance. They've already proven they're not afraid to fight. Don't let them give up the battle now.