For those who don’t know, tomorrow is National PTSD awareness day. (Personally, I didn’t even know this day existed until this year. Seems like there is a national day for everything these days though, so in a world where every kid gets a trophy, this is no real shock.)
In any case, I want to share a quick story of a Sergeant I met while receiving out patient therapy from the in patient PTSD clinic at the VA. It was right around Valentines day a few years ago.
The Sergeant was a man a little older than me, at the time in his early 30′s. He served in Operation Iraqi Freedom and was a medic on the push up to Baghdad. Like the famous men who hoisted the Flag at Iwo Jima, this Sergeant graced the cover of most major newspapers carrying an Iraqi boy to safety. His name was Sergeant Joseph Dwyer and the demons of the thunder run to Baghdad never left him.
Our encounter was brief but poignant. I recognized him as I stood in the break room sipping some coffee. He had just finished writing a letter to his family. We exchanged the typical “who you with” and “where were you” pleasantries that service members often use to size each other up. He was exited to be heading home soon. I traded email addresses with him and I still have the scrap of paper he wrote it on. I remember thinking to myself, I have been so close to checking myself in here, I am glad that it is working for him.
Four months later on June 28th 2008 he killed himself in his home in North Carolina.
I can still see him sitting on the couch in Northport. His tentative smile and somber eyes convinced me when I met him that he was going to be alright. I think of him often and brood about what went wrong. I know from experience how easily a spiral can plunge downward. He was loved. He was in treatment. Yet it still wasn’t enough to save him. Tonight I reflect and wonder had his entire community made it their business to care for this Veteran, would he be here now?
On this Day of National #PTSD Awareness, one day short of the three year anniversary of his suicide, I ask that each and everyone of you who read this take some time to share his story.
You don’t have to wear a ribbon or bracelet. You don’t have to donate money. Just share his story and talk about how we as a community can care for our Veteran’s, and more specifically those who suffer in silence with PTSD.
Here is also a link to a great organization that organizes sponsorship of Veterans for re-integration: Team Red, White and Blue or @teamrwb.
Team Red, White & Blue’s vision is to transform the way wounded veterans are reintegrated into society when they return from combat and exit their position in the Active Duty force or National Guard.
I know many of these great men and women and all of their hard work is tremendous. Thanks again!