EOM. Commonly in military lingo that signals End Of Mission. It means that you've stopped mortaring the crap out of a hilltop or other military objective, basically because our side now "owns" that piece of real estate, or its just been bombed back to the stone age. When it comes to the national tragedy that is Veteran suicide, I'd love to record EOM, but I can't. The sad fact is, today and everyday, on average, 22 Veterans will commit suicide. I mentioned above that this is a national tragedy, its a tragedy you don't hear enough about. That is because, in the majority of the media, suicides are not reported as news stories and the names of the Vets are not "superstar" famous.
Our country, in fact the world, seems to be consumed with what ever the Kardasians are doing or where Kanye West is hanging out. Today is the opening day for Major League baseball. Imagine if Derek Jeter, Justin Verlander, David Ortiz, Zach Greinke and 18 other Major League all stars committed suicide tomorrow. I'm sure facebook and the twittersphere would have their names trending for days! That's because you know their names if you follow baseball. Thousands of people wear their jerseys. But the entire country doesn't follow our Military the way they follow professional sports. It's just a sad reality. You can serve in a hellhole for a year, watch your buddies get wounded or killed, and when you come home, maybe there is someone besides your family waiting for you at the airport. Meanwhile, someone can throw a fastball 98 miles per hour, and they get all the glory. It sucks.
Start at 1. Of course, if you're reading this, maybe you are thinking to yourself "How can we stop 22 Veterans from committing suicide?" If you are thinking that, you're looking at the big picture. We're trained to look at it that way. The truth is the only way to end Veteran suicide is going to start with you and me. So, lets think about how we can stop just one suicide. It's the small approach.
In some studies, Veterans feel they don't have anything in common with civilians. The normal dude on the street has never been in a war zone. They've never had to jump out of bed and get in a shelter or man a defensive position during a mortar strike on your FOB (Forward Operating Base). Hell, most people on the street think a FOB is what you put your car keys on! So, Veterans feel distant. And, in truth, a lot of civilians feel that way too. Most of the time, when someone knows I served in the Military, the first question they ask is "Where did you serve?" or "What unit were you in?" That is normally the extent of the conversation. It's a normal first question. But there is no follow up to it. If a Vet says Iraq or Vietnam the normal civilian isn't going to ask for more details. Fear of bringing back bad memories is probably the most basic reason. But, again, there is no connection. Instead, you can say something like "I bet you were glad to get back home to hot and cold running water" or you can ask, "What was the first thing you did when you were home?"
Trust me, I am definitely not a psychologist or a psychiatrist, but the key to stopping suicide, whether its a Veteran or any suicide, is a conversation. A Vet with PTSD came up with a great idea called "Telephone A Vet Tuesdays", the point is to talk to a Veteran that you might otherwise not call. A five minute phone call could make all the difference in someone's day.
Combat effective. To be an effective combat unit you need to be able to do three things: shoot, move and communicate. A friend of mine named Mike was a commo guy in the national guard. He used to say Communication was the King of battle because, if you don't know where the battle is, you're not in the battle. Mike was always really cool. We came back home from Bosnia. We drilled at different units and I lost touch with him. Then, I found out he killed himself. I wasn't his best friend but, in the back of my head, I've always wondered if I stayed in touch, would he still be around. I'll never know. I do know this, I will keep in touch with my friends who I served with. For a long time, I kept a low profile. When I retired from the national guard, I kept to myself. I lost all touch with guys who were in my fire team, guys who were in my unit. That's over. I will keep in touch with my Brothers-in-Arms from now on. It's all about communication. It's the main key to The Spartan Pledge. If you are a Veteran, or even if you're still serving in the Military, you need to take the Spartan Pledge.
Anyway, the next time you see someone wearing a Military baseball cap start a conversation. Bring the conversation back to normal everyday things that everyone has in common (in Northeast Pennsylvania you can definitely have a 30 minute conversation on potholes while standing in line at the local Walmart). You're probably not going to be put on his or her Christmas card list, but you've made a Veteran feel involved in something local.
Local is the key. There is a community page on facebook called Light up the night 22 Veterans which promotes candlelight vigils on the 22nd of every month to raise awareness of Veteran suicide. In Northeast PA I have started an event for April 22nd called Shining the Light on 22. I'm going to have a candlelight vigil at the flagpole of my county courthouse. Now, you don't have to get all public like that, but you can hold a candlelight vigil on the 22nd at your church or a local park. Invite some of your friends. Next month, have them invite just one friend of theirs to join you again for a vigil to end Veteran suicide. Let them know stopping Veteran suicide starts with each and every one of us. If people ask you what you're doing, let them know too. One great online resource about Veteran suicide is the Mission 22 website. Please check it out.
The only way to win a battle is to engage the enemy. Our enemy is Veteran suicide. If you engage a Veteran in conversation, you're winning the battle.
That is all.