I Know Why Veterans Commit Suicide


I’m not going to be overly dramatic (for once, perhaps) in this blog. It’s the last post there’ll be before September 1, 2015, which was the date I had established (one year ago) when I would decide whether or not to go on living. Of course there were many who were alarmed/annoyed/scared/sanctimonious/critical et.al. One of the trolls called it a “cry for help” in a hate message. No shit, huh? Hell yeah, it was a cry for help– and the help came. If you’re hurting like I was, cry for help— and keep crying until the help comes! Fuck the haters. After the proclaimation of potential suicide in that middle-of-the-night blog, the next day I rushed right into the appropriate amount of caretaking, managing everyone’s feelings as best I could. And then I stopped. And then I got to work.

I know why veterans commit suicide. That’s too presumptuous. I’m only one veteran and I can’t know what every single veteran who contemplates or goes through with suicide is thinking; I can only speak for me. But since there are, according to the much-Facebooked statistic of late, 22 veterans who commit suicide each day, I can’t help but think that there are commonalities.

The business of the military is killing. I know, I know, “defense,” “democracy,” blah-blah-blah. Trust me, we don’t carry shields or copies of the constitution, we carry weapons. It was a drill instructor who pointed out to us that our jobs as Marines was to kill. We kill the enemy. For all the people that are uncomfortable with this fact, they’ll quickly start to list the other “missions of the military” but the fact is the endgame is to take the life of the enemy. When the veteran’s own mind becomes the enemy, it only makes sense that he (or she) would want to kill it; that’s what we are programmed to do. Plus, I think it’s safe to say that most people who take their lives have lost something very important: hope. The depression that often comes with PTS(D) surfs along on waves of hopelessness. This, I believe is because of two things: 1) Most of us veterans who struggle have a sense that their was a betrayal of trust along the way– we offered our lives in exchange for a promise that those lives would not be wasted or even spent if not for the reasons that are purportedly the reasons we are ever sent to war, and our nation broke that promise (along with a whole bunch of others) and  2) everybody I ever talked to in the military and also the veterans I’ve visited with since I got out talk about the great feeling they had going in– those who joined voluntarily anyway. There were very high expectations for how joining the military was going to fix all our problems and give a great life. There’s disappointment when that doesn’t happen, grave disappointment. There’s also the matter of being ashamed of some of the things we might have done. Sooner or later “you were just doing your job” doesn’t quite cut it. To any other veteran who might have found themselves in this familiar place, please know that we hold a unique place that no one else holds, we carry a message that can actually prevent others from having to go through it. You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. We can end war. Don’t kill yourself. You’d be killing the wrong person. Stick around; we need you.

As embarrassing as it was, I don’t regret broadcasting that I was feeling suicidal a year ago– and as I said last night, I don’t feel guilty about diming out my abusers in the blog. I held back in some cases where the person would be absolutely destroyed if I told the whole truth and when, on a couple of occasions, some third party tried to defend someone I’d called out in the blog, I just let it go to avoid destroying more lives. I hurt enough for all of us. I decided to let them live on in the ignorance that has been the hallmark of their relationships with the abusers. Time will likely reveal more but it won’t be doing it through my pen. I’ve got bigger fish to fry now. I’ve closed those chapters of my life as a beautiful new one is opening. It’s time to move on at an all new level.

Thank you to those of you who (after I had calmed down a little bit about the “don’t talk to me about the blog” thing) reached out to me with some of your own stories. I was moved by each and every one of them, especially other queer folk that had it so hard as kids and especially other vets who had thought of suicide. Hang in there y’all– together, we can get through anything.

So I’m off to Burning Man in the morning and I’ll be off the grid until the 8th of September. I’ll pick back up then and keep marching forward with this thing as long as I see that there are so many of you still along for the ride. (There are consistently several hundred who read the blog daily now.) As I mentioned last night, the format or frequency might change, maybe not.

I talked (via text) to my new friend in Sydney early today. His text just said, “I want to hold your hand.” You wouldn’t believe how many crass lines I’ve heard in my life. It seems to be getting worse. His sweet statement touched me deeply and helped me to further realize the things I truly value in this life– as well as the things I don’t. I look forward to holding his hand in person when I visit Australia soon.

So this is not goodbye– to you or to the blog. As I said last night, I’ve gotten used to having you around. It’ll be fun to see what’s next together. It may sound silly but I don’t think that I could have done the things I needed to do over this last “year to live” without your support– even just knowing you’re there, on the other side of this light window, listening to my craziness.

I’ll be journaling at Burning Man so I’ll have that as a reference to share some of the highlights with you. I fully expect to have my mind blown– in a good way. All the good things that are happening to me are in part because of you so there’s no reason you shouldn’t get to share in them as well.

I’m grateful; I’m a very grateful man. Even in the midst of the grief I am still processing around my mother’s death, I am grateful. And since I do know that what we feed grows, I’m excited to see what new and good things are coming down the pike next. No matter what it is, I know that I can handle any rough waters because of all I’ve already been through. And although I’m ever expectant of new blessings, I can also say that I want what I have and I actually want for nothing. There was a time when I would have rather be anyone else in the world other than me; now there’s no one in the world I’d rather be. Thanks for your help in getting here.

Okay, Burning Man here I come!

See y’all in a couple of weeks.

About this entry