Well, here goes…this may get lengthy, but I hope it will help someone, somewhere. I will preface this all by saying I have never seen combat, and don’t claim to have any form of PTS. I’ll try to keep this somewhat organized and not too scatter brained. I have lots I could write but I don’t want to make it too long so if you have any questions or want to talk more, I’m here, just send me a message.
I enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserves in 2004. I served for 6 years as an MP, and had one deployment of 7 months in 2008-2009 to Djibouti, Africa. I’ll be honest, it wasn’t the typical deployment for the times we were in. There was no combat zone of any kind there. Some people viewed it more as a vacation.
After I got out of the Corps in 2010, while I never hid the fact that I was a veteran, I never really fully embraced it either. When talking with fellow veterans, I always just kind of took a quiet back seat. I almost felt ashamed that I never did a “real deployment” to Iraq or Afghanistan. I felt like that was my first strike against me. My second strike, in my eyes, was that I was only in the reserves and not active duty.
Adding to all of this was the fact I was a Marine, and that’s a heavy title to live up to. I had friends, family, and coworkers saying, “Oh he can do it, he’s a Marine”, or “Let’s have the Marine do it”, etc. I felt like I didn’t live up to that title since I was only in the reserves and hadn’t actually “fought” for our country.
Fast forward to just a year or so ago. In working with fellow veterans and seeing their own struggles they’ve dealt with, and their willingness to open up, it made me realize something. I am a veteran, and a Marine. I did sign that dotted line, and I did serve my country. And to most veterans, it doesn’t matter what you did or didn’t do, or if or where you deployed to. All that matters is you’re part of a brotherhood/sisterhood that not many people can say they belong to as well. That’s especially true with the Marine Corps. Once a Marine, Always a Marine.
So, I hope I still have your attention. I’m just about finished. No matter when or where you served, be proud of it. Don’t be afraid to share your own experiences with others. There could be someone out there with a similar story, but are afraid to share it because they feel ashamed, or feel they’ll be ridiculed because it. Don’t worry, we won’t judge you. We’ll welcome you in to the family with arms wide open. You just have to be willing to open up and reach out. Find an organization that you can be a part of and help your fellow brothers and sisters. We’re all alone, together.
Semper Fidelis Marines.
A lot of reflecting this week. Watching the numbers grow day by day made a lasting impression. I have been following the statistics for quite some time now, but it really hit home this week, especially with a personal connection. 23 is too many, 115 is shocking, and the week isn't even over yet. Veteran suicide is a real issue that does not discriminate. We all can help stop this epidemic though. If you know a service member, or veteran, check up on them, let them know of you're there. If you are on the other side of the coin, know there is someone there who cares for you and loves you willing to help. I witnessed this this week first hand while 2 men stood tall with empty boots in some of the worst weather imaginable. Rain, snow, and extreme wind, and they toughed it out to lend an ear, educate people, and provide help to eliminate veteran suicide. This epidemic can be stopped. We need to stand tall just as these men and boots did through the wind, rain, and snow. Together we can beat this. Thank you Operation 23 to 0.
Re: Photographs taken at Boots for the 23 Event
My hope behind taking those photographs is that it will make a true impact on people will look at them. Its not necessarily that I want to put more focus on the kids left behind versus the soldier but I want people to see the truth. That picture specifically is the oldest child and the youngest out of four who lost their father. One will have memories and guilt and confusion for the rest of her days and the other one will never have an opportunity to feel his touch or hear his voice. I personally as a widow and a suicide survivor, need for people to understand that even the greatest person, the strongest man, the most devoted father can feel so low and weak in any given moment and take their life as a last resort in an effort to make the people around them better off....We are so far from better off.