An Open Letter To My Veteran: You Are Not Alone
You are straight out of high school. September 11, 2001 is over with. You decide to join the military to help make a difference and protect this country after the terrorist attacks. Heading to training you are probably wondering what your future holds. Will you live? Will you die? Will you get deployed to combat? The answer is unknown. For weeks you are beaten up. Training is hard, some people don’t make it. Others are throwing up from exhaustion, others fainting from dehydration, this is preparation for war. Exhaustion is guaranteed, as is dehydration and you must know how to react in these situations. At training camp these things won’t kill you, but in combat it can be the difference between life and death.
Day after day you battle different demons. You are constantly pushing yourself to the farthest limits that your body can possibly go. Throughout training you transform from a boy into a man. You learn about yourself, the world, and what it takes to make it. You never leave any man behind and go through scenario after scenario of the worst possible cases that could occur while in combat.
You somehow make it through training. Through some of the hardest days of your life. This is the end. You made it through the crucible. 54 hours of food and sleep deprivation and 45 miles of marching. You did it! But there is chaos in Iraq and Afghanistan and you are immediately deployed. On the plane ride there you think about the training. Your preparation for this very moment in your life. You are excited and nervous. You have seen what war is like on tv and in movies, but know it will be so much different when you are suddenly in the middle of it.
While deployed there are many days where you don’t sleep and don’t eat. You survive on very little of everything. Those you serve with become family. You live and die together and protect one another while protecting our country. People are dying all around you, you sleep at night to the sound of gunshots, roadside bombs are everywhere, you watch countless people lose their lives and only can hope that you won’t be next. For months you continue to fight every single day. Living in a real life video game.
Returning home is the hardest thing you could ever do. As military return back to civilian life they don’t know what to do. How do you go from a war zone to civilian life back home? No one knows what you went through, what you saw, what you did. People start to become lost within themselves and this world. They don’t know how to cope and often turn to opioids and alcohol. There is hope! Many come back with mental illnesses due to what they endured while deployed, most common being PTSD.
This is the part where I talk about how important it is for our veterans and active duty to continually be receiving support and professional help. As military professionals they are taught to be tough, can’t be a cry baby. You are hungry? Too bad. You need to sleep? Too bad. Something hurts? Better not tell anyone. It is so intense and many military professionals need and want to talk about their feelings but it is considered not manly and they need to toughen up. Well, sometimes you can’t. Sometimes things are REALLY hard and you need help.
Help is available. Help is encouraged. There are support groups around the country specifically for veterans to be able to discuss their experiences with one another just because no one else could ever understand what they truly went through. Find people who truly will understand you and stick to one another, fight together, you are military professionals. You are fighters. You fought for freedom and peace, allow yourself freedom and peace by taking an initiative to get any help you need to cope with the experiences you have endured.
I was never in the military. I have no clue what it was like. I only know from the stories I have heard over and over again. However, to all the veterans and active duty please take the time to take care of yourself. Take the time to see someone, reach out to one another. Every single day several veterans die because they feel alone. There is hope. There is a future. You have a purpose. You are loved. You are needed on this Earth. Most importantly
YOU ARE NOT ALONE!
Links for mental health care for veterans:
Use your benefits:
Veteran Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255 and pressing 1.
Find another veteran that you can connect with to talk about your experiences here: https://www.woundedwarriorproject.org/programs/peer-