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Never Known

Today we celebrate Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day. Celebrate seems like the wrong word when you consider that we are celebrating-the start of World War II.

Recently, I was disheartened to learn that the estimates used by the government to report veteran's daily suicide rates may be incredibly under reported. In an article by the Military Times, officials from America’s Warrior Partnership, in a joint study with University of Alabama and Duke University, collected data raging from 2014 to 2018 and found that the reported suicide rates of 17 individuals a day (the official estimate released by the Department of Veterans Affairs 2021) may actually be closer to 44 veterans a day.

It's hard to count a number that is by any measure staggering. When I consider the men and women who joined the military in service to their country, I think of the young warrior before they went to boot camp. I think of the child filled with hope and a desire to protect family, friend, and the country they love. I think of the youngster who left childhood behind and within weeks was transformed to a fighter.

Each one was specially trained to do anything and go anywhere to accomplish the mission. They were committed to follow their leaders and believed they were there with the same intention, purpose, and goals. They learned the skills necessary to execute their jobs, they built life long relationships, and were devastated when months later their friendship ended in death. They loved what they did and took pride in their accomplishments. They knew who they were, where they were going, and had assurance they were on the side of truth.

They traveled to distant lands and discovered places very different from their homes. There were no comforts of home. They slept on the streets, beside their vehicles, between buildings, and sometimes didn't shower for weeks. They found comfort with their comrades in arms as together they faced the daily struggles to survive. They didn't know who was friend or foe and they did the best they could to discern the risk. The blindly followed but saw things they wish they had never seen. They participated in horrific things that haunted their nights and consumed their thoughts. They pushed their pain to the side and pressed on. More terror, more pain, more loss, all compounded and still they pushed it down, ignored it, and avoided talking about it. They drank in order to sleep in hope of finding rest, but the dreams brought a terror of its own.

One day they learned they would be going home and they were encouraged. Maybe when they left this place they would be able to leave behind the memories that plagued them but they followed and rose up with a vengeance. Now as a veteran they couldn't push it down, there was nothing to press forward to, the mission was unclear and never established, and helplessly, the warrior realized they had no purpose to pursue.

So they did the only thing they were trained to do. They sleep on the streets, beside their vehicles, between buildings, and sometimes they don't shower for weeks. They find comfort with their comrades in arms as together they face the daily struggles to survive. The sad thing is, this is not happening in a distant land far from home. This is America. This is the land they fought to protect, and the people here are more foe than friend. They are attacked, belittled, and blamed for the wars their leaders created. They are the wide eyed child who left home at 18, but who has returned to a home they have ever known. They are the unseen, unloved, and discounted. They have served their purpose during enlistment and their leaders have no more use for them.

The veteran who comes to Encouragers Counseling & Training Centers is different. We see them, hear them, encourage them, and embrace their pain with them. We help them overcome and find peace with their past. But, more than that, we help them find a purpose, a personal mission, with goals and objectives, and walk with them as they take their first steps toward a better tomorrow. This is the Encouragers' difference and we are making a difference in the numbers who die. In nearly 10 years we have not lost one of our veterans to suicide while they were in our care. I wish the 17, 22, or 44 a day who take their own lives would have met us and given us a chance to love, encourage, and help them find a new way of living.

There is a sunrise to every morning that brings a new day. Faith is found in that daybreak and hope is just beyond the horizon. Don't suffer in silence, hidden in the shadows consumed by fear. Step out of the darkness and into the light. You'll be glad you did.

"Our complex problem solving and split decision making skills learned in the military

can be utilized and we can do anything."

Evan Hafer - founder Black Rifle Coffee Company


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