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Civilian vs Military Communities

There can be a room full of PHDs trying to understand the causes of veteran suicide. Their collective knowledge and analysis are crucial, but they lack the experience and the feeling of living in the dark. What happens when you have five veterans, all of whom have very different backgrounds and military experiences sharing their stories? Enlightenment. Having all walked through that darkness and battled their demons, these five veterans help answer the question; as a nation, are we doing what it takes to stop veteran suicide? Meet Latora, LaHarold, Steve, Damon, and Rich, five veterans.

Five people, your neighbors.

Latora: In a nutshell, I feel like everyone in the military has a discerning spirit; we know good people from bad. We know BS. If we see sincerity and true love, we will venture more toward that help. At the end of the day, we are not a number; we are people. When we look at all these organizations starting programs to help veterans, we wonder, are you just money hungry, or are you sincerely trying to help us? I remember thinking about those things when I was going through my issues. I tried the National Suicide Hotline, and they put me on hold for 15 minutes. Do you realize what could have happened in 15 minutes? Even in 2 minutes? They were like, ‘please hold.’ Damon: People are so focused on division, what divides us and not enough of us really look at what unites us and what makes us similar. We have to embrace our differences.
Steve: There is a real need for community suicide awareness to effect suicide prevention. All people, not just military people, need identity and purpose. To get up and get dressed, you need identity and purpose.
Latora: There have been many times when I was just on the brink, and many times, someone, usually a complete stranger, would embrace me and tell me it’s going to be okay. Just random runins with someone who saved me. When the struggle gets real enough, we understand to take what we need from a situation.
The Civilian: All three of you have personally dealt with debilitating thoughts of suicide. During those times, did you feel like you were the only one even though you heard about ’22 a day?
Latora: I didn’t feel that way, but I did feel no one understood on the level. Everyone has different things they have gone through. I had a tough upbringing, and I’ve been around the world. I have done a lot, and I’ve seen a lot.
LaHarold: especially being a woman in the military. I can attest to that. I’ve seen what women go through in the military. Women in the military, I take my hat off to them.
Steve: The point is being heard. Where can you find the right place to be heard? Whom can I tell? When and how do you reach a point when you want to talk about it?
Latora: I grew up in a religious family and have always had God at the center of my life. But, amid those suicidal thoughts, it’s not that I lost faith in God; I lost faith in humanity and felt like the world lacked genuine people.
LaHarold: I found what I needed in my church. When I was lost and unsure of my place in this world, finding someone to pray for me pulled me through honestly. I know that it is hard to return once you are broken. We need each other also, and we need people watching out for us who recognize when things are not okay.
Latora: Leaving the military, you go from being around people with the same purpose. Out here, you have people battling for jobs and positions. In the military, if I’m an E3 and a cook, and you are an E3, but you are a lawyer, we still get the same pay. It doesn’t matter what your profession is. It only matters who you are as a person; when you get out, you lose that level playing field. Out here, you don’t know who that work friend is or how they think about you. You don’t know if they are jealous because you were able to buy a house with no money down. After all, in the military, it doesn’t matter; we all get the VA Loan. We all get the same things. We didn’t experience that type of competition in the military. That was the hardest for me, losing the loyalty.
Steve: If people could ever get to the point where they genuinely understood how to show love and respect, veterans would be more likely to open up.
Latora: Nobody wants to feel like they’re just laying on a couch spilling their guts and looking crazy, you know?
Steve: It’s true; no one wants to be told they are all screwed up.
Rich: When I left the military, I had no clue what was out there, so I didn’t get a lot of help. It hasn’t been until the past five years or so that I’ve realized my personal PTSD and TBI, and I’m getting help for it, and I’m feeling much better. I’ve apologized to my wife, our family, and our friends. Even my ex-wife because I realized I was an asshole. I wasn’t in control of it, but I learned these things affected me and caused me to be not a good person. I’m not afraid to say it; if my saying it will help one person get up and admit it and seek help, I am all about that. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. It’ just the experience you had, and it affected you one way or another, and trust me, I’m not anywhere near what a lot of guys are going through. Maybe to the average person, I am screwed up, but comparing myself to other military folks who have PTSD or TBI is much worse than I do ‘there, but by the grace of God’ God bless them for what they go through.

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