To the Veterans Who Feel Like They Can't Talk About Their Struggles

You are more than just a number. Your life matters. You trained for countless hours, invested time, suffered casualties, lost loved ones and grieved. For those who are too young to be married, you sacrificed your youth to serve your country. You took an oath to protect and serve, to sacrifice your own life for that of your country. Hardly legal age you do not fully know yourself, yet and you are asked to leave the life you knew and to build a life in a combat zone or as a base operative.

For those who are married you are often separated from your spouse. If you have children they will at times be raised away from you. The stress of the military on a marriage, a family and a growing child is a real struggle. The hope is that you will serve your time, overcome these challenges, and be able to mainstream back into the life you once lived. The hope to reconnect with loved ones and be there when your child takes their first footsteps or needs help chasing the monster from their bedroom. Your life, both the good and bad, shapes who you are as a person. The civilian world is so different, as it lacks the same structure and hierarchy. The transition back to civilian life is incredibly difficult as you carry scars. These scars could be a physical manifestation of combat or they could metaphorically represent all of the struggles and challenges you try so desperately to lock within. If you are female you may carry issues of sexual harassment that you feel you are unable to speak about. It is a secret you lock deep within.

Making friends and allowing others in is an incredibly difficult challenge. From your time in combat, you have lost friends and grieved deeply. Having connections with others requires vulnerability and you’ve hardened yourself to survive. Suicide is something you have seen, maybe even contemplated.

Terms like post-traumatic stress disorder has been explained to you, but it’s just a label. You can understand it on one level — but the goal is to survive. You think serving means keeping these things in, pushing forward and being a good solider. In doing this you forget you are unique. You choose to sacrifice your life for others and have experienced so much of the world to ensure the safety of your country. You are afraid to share these things because it seems less heroic, as you are just a number, no different than others who have served. There is strength in numbers and you have proven yourself to be strong — but you as an individual carry so much value.

By taking the time to share these struggles, you form connections with others. You do not want those who serve after you to became a statistic, so becoming a mentor and pushing yourself to share your experiences will help the solider following you. It will help them realize that individually they have value, and a voice that needs to be heard. Continue to share your struggles and experiences, as this will allow others to grow from you. Take a veteran under your wing and validate the importance of them sharing their struggles, as they will be an inspiration to the world around them.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

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