We celebrated our independence this past weekend, with fireworks and cookouts. We have a lot in our past to be thankful for, of course, but we also need to continue to support those who are still fighting for our freedom.
My experience as a warrior could have turned even more tragic. Many lives were lost to the scud missile that severely wounded me. I have lived life as a wounded warrior for the past 25 years, dealing with the physical pain that has been nearly unbearable at times. The mental challenges have often been even greater than the surgeries, the recoveries, the physical therapy, and the daily challenges caused by my wounds.
Like so many other veterans, I struggle daily with the thought that I survived when so many others did not. I struggle daily with practical issues, like securing appropriate medical care. I struggle with the knowledge that so many veterans are not half as fortunate as I am.
I turned my circumstance into success. So many others fight a constant battle still, only this time the battle is with themselves and with the people who are supposed to be taking care of them.
Sometimes the pain is just too much for these warriors. A figure of 22 veteran suicides per day has been quoted by a number of sources. While that number has been debated, the fact remains that the rate of veteran suicides is way too high, about 50 percent higher than civilian suicides. The fact that anyone has lost hope to the point of committing suicide is devastating.
We need to continue to fight for those who fought – and are still fighting – for our freedom. Don’t just salute the flag on holidays. Shake the hands of the veterans in your life and let them know you appreciate them and care about them. Talk to your elected officials about the serious need to provide appropriate help to veterans who are struggling with their physical and mental pain. Listen to the stories of the veterans who need to talk about their experiences.
Be thankful for your freedom – and for the men and women who fought to make sure you can enjoy it.