I have just returned from working with the American Veteran’s Tribute Organization (AVT). We honored two heroes who had served our country. This amazing event included many stories, celebrations, meaningful moments and, of course, the ever-powerful fireworks show on Lake Gaston. This hallmark of Americana not only truly paid tribute to our veterans, but it helped bring awareness to some of their individual issues and the hardships faced by their families.
How AVT and Lakeside cooperate to support families of veterans
AVT is working with Lakeside to bring more support to veterans’ families by providing a new recreational rehabilitation center right on Lake Gaston. The rehabilitation center offers veterans who have had traumatic injuries a place to recoup and prepare for the next phase of life. This is just one provision, but it is truly exciting to see the potential and envision what is yet to come as we work toward assisting more traumatized veterans.
However, positive as this celebration was, it reminded me all the more of the extensive difficulties of our veterans and their families.
The prevalence of suicide and attempted suicide
Some of you may remember the article (CNN, November 14,2013) which discussed statistics regarding the plight of our veterans. The article focused on the 22-per-day suicide rate among veterans, showing the majority of those suicides among veterans 50 years of age and older. The article stated that 30% of veterans have contemplated committing suicide and 45% know of someone in the Iraq and/or Afghanistan wars who have attempted suicide.
I know of reports stating a reduction in daily suicides, but other reports suggest the opposite: up to 30 suicides per day among veterans. Because of the complex level of trauma among the military, it is anticipated we will see increases in these numbers, which means this issue will expand exponentially and incur more serious problems in the future.
As I have stated in previous posts, the realities of trauma have culminated in intense issues and crises for veterans and their families. At the event I just mentioned on Lake Gaston, we heard an appeal by Angie Pierce, wife of Brian Pierce (who we honored last year). She spoke passionately about the impact of Brian’s PTSD on their family.
The isolation of families suffering trauma is so severe. Further, the constancy of the PTSD creates secondary PTSD, a condition in which the symptoms are passed to the family. For generations to come, there will be both the veteran’s PTSD and that of his/her children. Secondary PTSD only increases the tragic statistics regarding our military.
I urge you to remember why we have freedom in this country
I never want any of us to go through a holiday which celebrates our country’s freedoms without remembering those who have paid the price for that freedom.
I am concerned about the prevalence of PTSD that plague the families of those who have been so faithful in serving our country. I do hope that we as a nation, as communities and as individuals who care will continue to find ways to respond to the serious and continued needs of both our veterans and their children.
We really need to do more and be more on behalf of our veterans.
If we do not reach out to them with the support, services and care that they need each and every day, the result will be more costly, more tragic and more demeaning to these individuals and their families. Though it may be overwhelming to think about, if we can touch one veteran’s family with help and support, we could prevent tragedies we still see as prominent and devastating.
Please reach out to those veterans’ families you know and show them you care.
Gerry Vassar, President/CEO, Lakeside Educational Network