This past month was Suicide Awareness and Prevention Month that I have been writing about. Suicides do not happen during just one month, the most current report shows they have risen to 25 a day.
One suicide a day, week, month or years is unacceptable. We all must learn the signs and remain on alert for those around us that may be facing serious mental issues.
I received a message from a Veteran that shared a post from Facebook of one veterans words that reveal his self-awareness concerning the thoughts of dying in combat. This message quickly goes from thoughts of being on active duty to thoughts he has faced since becoming a civilian.
Can suicide be a warrior death? I feel a warrior will deal with her or his issues in many different ways. They can only pray that a voice will lead them through the darkness and allow them to live a long life. That voice can be from a counselor, something they saw on tv or heard on the radio.
It will be heard the loudest from someone that veteran knows and realizes they are there to help and support. Be the loudest you can in a soft voice with unrestrained love. Help them though their times of trouble or find them professional help before they become a statistic.
These are not exclusive thoughts of young veterans; war has had its impact on warriors throughout time. Speaking for myself the thoughts of suicide are real. I am including this young man’s post in its entirety, unedited. It will help you see what goes on in the minds on many veterans, of all eras, who still live with these thoughts.
A BROKEN WARRIOR; by ANOMYOUS:
“Kind of scary to think about how okay I was with the idea of dying while I was in the in the military because it felt like that was okay, a part of the job. But it was also something I never shared with my family because I did not want them to hurt from my mindset... A warrior’s death was an honor in some way, it was this idea that I died for something bigger than myself. I was dying for my brothers, my kin, and my country. In the military you almost become passive aggressive suicidal. You don’t want to die. You don’t hope you die... but you become so okay with the idea that it just becomes the normal. And psychologically I don’t think you ever come back from it. You leave the military you try to go to school, you try to fit back in and adjust to civilian life once again. You struggle to relate with your family, you struggle to relate with other students, you struggle to relate to your coworkers. You find the only people that actually make sense to you are veterans or your friends that are still in. They understand you. They know the same feeling all too well. The only way to supplement this idea, is to find some kind of purpose. But it is rare to find another job that gives you the same level of purpose that you once felt. I think that is why so many veterans feel so depressed and suicidal so often. We are lost. So extremely lost in the world. Searching to fill a void. Sometimes there are voids that we looked to be filled by joining the military, and for some it does for a while. Broken families breed some of the best Marines I have ever had the privilege of serving beside. Being a product of a broken family, I looked at the Marine Corps as a place to fill a void, to be a family and a sense of belonging I lacked growing up. And for the years I spent in, it did. I met some of the best people I’ve ever known, but our times in the Corps all ended at different times. But our pains all started again at different times. We longed for a family that we found. We bonded over pain, blood, sweat, and genuine love for one another. When we become separated from that family, the search for it begins again. Some of us never find it, not in the same way we did before. Sure, you see veterans or old friends you served with at reunions or hikes. But that everyday living and suffering together, that is what you miss and long for once again. Since I got out it has been a constant struggle to find that sense of belonging, but I have yet to find it. It makes me question my career choices, the people I spent my time with, and worst of all it makes me wonder if I will ever have a purpose worth being alive for again. Hidden behind forced smiles and sad eyes, I’m still empty searching for that thing to fill the void. I hope one day I find it. Or I am lucky enough to be granted a warrior’s death. Not sure which one I will find if either. But I will keep searching until I do find it. I am a broken warrior, but I keep fighting on...even though I feel like I am losing most days. I am a broken warrior...”
These words are far reaching and affect male and female veterans alike. Learn the signs of possible suicides and be there when someone needs help. Be that voice they need, save a life. One suicide a day is unacceptable.
The Harvest Festivals that happen in Cocke County every year are filled with vendors. It is a time that many organizations show the community and visitors what they do. Many provide services to the people of the community and they use the festivals to reach out for support. There are two organizations this year that focus on Veterans in the community. The Parrottsville Quilt Guild’s Quilts of Valor group and the Disabled American Veterans Chapter 102. Both are raising funds to support their abilities to honor, provide services, and bring comfort to area Veterans. Be sure to reach out to them and support their efforts.
QUILTS OF VALOR:
The Parrottsville Quilt Guild who make Quilts of Valor (QOV) to honor the local veterans is holding a fundraiser. There will be a choice of two quilts that they have made that are not Quilts of Valor but beautiful ones ready for any bed. They were displayed at the Newport Harvest Festival this last weekend and were viewed by visitors who found them and said, “How Beautiful”, “Amazing colors”, “What can I do to help?”.
Sheliah Strobel who leads the group shared that the, “Basic costs of materials for a standard sized quilt is $160.00 (About ½ of this has been donated by each quilter). Each quilt takes about 58 hours to make (58 hours of assembly at minimum wage of $7.25 an hour = $ 420.00). To date the Parrottsville Guild has presented 215 quilts and requests for 65 Veterans.” They do this with no funding.
Nationally the QOV share these statistics for the quilts that have been awarded, “This Week: 646, This Month: 2,548, Awarded 2019 YTD: 20,995, and Total Quilts Awarded: 230,065.
Of the two beautiful quilts up for grab, one is a bright “pin wheel” pattern that is stitched with dragonflies and butterflies. The other will cover a king size bed. It features a barnyard scene of a Mother and daughter horse in a winter setting. You will be able to see both quilts at the Parrottsville Festival this coming weekend, and other upcoming events in the area.
Sam Blanchard, a disabled veteran, came up with the idea for this fundraiser. He said, “The ladies that make these quilts have no funding. They provide most of the materials and all their time to put them together. They work so hard to honor the veterans we need to do something for them.”
The ladies that make these quilts were reluctant to have veterans working to raise money for them. They feel that the quilts they make and present to veterans should not be “paid for” by the men receiving them. The veterans helping raise the funds feel it is a way to support this project and help “pay it forward” so others can feel the warmth of the love sewn into the quilt they receive.
Along with QOV members, Sam has enlisted others including David Meeks and myself to help. We will all be working throughout the county to offer the tickets for the quilts. The drawing will be held at a December 7, Pearl Harbor Remembrance event. Be sure to support this project so the guild will be able to achieve their goal of honoring each of the area’s veterans for the sacrifices they have made. You can contact me through the information at the end of the column and I will be sure one of us will get tickets to you. More information on the place and time will be coming.
DAV CHAPTER 102:
Disabled American Veterans Chapter 102 has been helping veterans and their families receive benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Their service officers do disability claims and provide a resource for veterans with questions. They are also a support for those who run upon hard times. Their charitable fund allows them to help families, with food, utilities, insurance and medical bills when emergencies come up. Their support for veterans is known throughout the community and many show up on the Chapter’s Open House every Wednesday 9 a.m. to noon. They have service officers available then, as well.
The members of Chapter 102 are offering items that include a lap quilt donated by Foothills of the Smoky’s Quilts, and a beautiful red, white and blue, outdoor bench and chair. You will find them at the upcoming festivals. The drawing will be at the close of the Del Rio festival. Contact any member for tickets or call the Commander Larry Hartsell at 423-623-5112.
NEWS OF NOTE:
American Legion Post 41 meets the second Tuesday of each month at the American Legion’s Cocke County Memorial Building 103 N. Cosby Highway. The next meeting will be tonight, Tuesday October 8 at 5 p.m. with a potluck meal, followed by the business meeting at 6 p.m. Entry will be on C Avenue across from the Newport Fire Department. You can call David Mills, Commander at (423) 237-6896 for directions or more information.
Disabled American Veterans Chapter 102 at 148 Pine Street. Chapter 102 meets the third Thursday of each month. The next meeting will be Thursday, October 17 at 148 Pine Street. Opens at 6 p.m. with a potluck meal and meeting at 7 p.m. For more information contact Larry Hartsell, Commander at 423-623-5112
Rob Watkins is a totally disabled, Air Force, Vietnam combat veteran. He has worked with Veterans for over 40 years. As a member of local organizations, he continues his path to help others. Please send information, dates for events, two weeks in advance, questions or suggestion; by mail to 565 Caney Creek Road Cosby, TN 37722 or c/o Newport Plain Talk, email; email@example.com, Facebook/View from the Bunker, or call 423-721-8918.