By Brent King and Melissa Martin
The military teaches soldiers how to fight, how to kill, how to survive. But who teaches them how to lie with themselves?
To whom 1t may concern,
(Hopefully, all who read this will be concerned, sad and angered as I have been)
My Son-in-law, Douglas J. Martin devoted himself to the Army for the last 6 years. His platoon described him as funny, free spirited and one of the best tactical people they have ever known. Over the 8 years he was with my daughter. we became very close. He and I joked, laughed, hiked, and had great adventures. When Douglas and my daughter moved, I assisted each and every ume. When Douglas needed sometlung, he would call me. We talked about everything.
Our fun conversations began to take a different tone post deployment. Discussions became consumed by the struggles and demons he faced every day. W'hi.le the fun, loving, great father and husband was still there, we talked about other things now as well.
It took Douglas a long time before he realized he never fully came back from Afghanistan and that he suffered from Depression and PTSD, now known now as PTS. As it has come to be determined, this is as much of a disorder as it is part of their life. This is something they live with and something we need to address. While my daughter and I begged him to get help, he would not. He stated it would ruin his career if he did and that everything would change. Douglas shared that they are taught to suppress and not discuss their mindset. That if he were to seek counseling, he would be considered weak. Since losing Douglas, I have learned that he was among many Veterans who have shared this same sentiment.
Douglas and & spoke a lot in generalities about things he endured abroad. Douglas could not go into detail since he was not permitted to share therefore breaking the trust and bond of the Army. After many months of very dark times, my daughter told Douglas that serious changes needed to be made. They have two beautiful young boys, spitting images of their Father. She said that it was now or never to seek help or that their marriage would not survive.
After my daughter's plea and ultimatum, Doug finally made the decision to get help in April of this year. In early May and after just 2 sessions, Doug said his outlook on life was changing for the better. Struggles still presented themselves daily but the family was working through things better now that he was in counseling.
It was 4:30am on May 6th, I received a call from Doug. He was crying, struggling and not in a good place. We spoke for a while and after Doug told me how much he loved me and I loved him we agreed co talk again in two hours. One hour later, I learned he shot himself in the head. He was gone.
I could not save him, and I will forever live with chat pain. My anger turned to action. Upon further investigation, I have learned that since Doug passing, there has been 5 in his Brigade who have committed suicide. Another soldier that I know, 3 of his friends have committed suicide since they have come back from their service abroad. The more research I did, the more perplexing it became that we have not woken up to the seriousness of this issue.
This bill is not just about Doug, it is about the thousands of Military personnel that fight these demons every day. When you think about the number of Vets dishonorably discharged, if we would have gotten to them early, would they have been, or could we have saved them? The 7300 lives lost each year to this and the thousands more in family grief, how much could we prevent if we get rid of the stigma of being weak if you try to get help. Let us make an impact in these Military lives, they have invested in us, lets invest back.
I read in (Your Military) that active duty suicides are on the rise, as the Pentagon works on new messaging and strategy September 26, 2019. Really work on a strategy when the simple answer is right in front of you. Here is another quote from the article that just set me back.
"I wish I could tell you we had the answer to prevent further, future suicides in the armed services," Esper told reporters, calling the issue a "national epidemic."
SERIOUSLY! Really, I am blown away by this.
I could not find current numbers but here is what I have so far!
Here are the 2018 numbers broken down by service (several of the reserve component branches do not have a rate, because they have fewer than 100,000 members):
• Army: 139 for a rate of 29.5
• Marine Corps: 58, for a rate of 31.4
• Navy: 68, for a rate of 18.5
• Air Force: 60, for a rate of 18.5
• Army Reserve: 48, for a rate of 25.3
• Marine Corps Reserve: 19
• Navy Reserve: 11
• Air Force Reserve: 3
• Army National Guard: 118, for a rate of 35.3
• Air National Guard: 17
According to the DoD data, more than 90 percent of suicide deaths were of enlisted troops: E-1s through E-4s made up 43 percent of active duty suicides, 39 percent of reservists and 53 percent of Guardsmen.
These numbers mean the following:
• The military deaths reflect a national trend. In the U.S. the suicide rate has increased by 33%
• suicide is the second leading cause of death among people up to 34 years old.
• The number of suicides jumped from 285 to 325 between 2017 and 2018, according to the 2018 Annual Suicide Report
• Firearms were the method of suicide in 70.7% of male Veteran suicide deaths and 43.2% of female Veteran suicide deaths in 2017 (What are they now, they have not gone down)
The numbers surrounding our Veterans are Just as alarming:
• 20 veterans die from suicide per day
• The number of Veteran suicides exceeded 6,000 each year from 2008 to 2017
• In addition to the Veteran suicides, there were 919 suicides among never federally activated former National Guard and Reserve members in 2017, an average 2.5 suicide deaths per day
I could continue to go on but you should have the point by now, this is an issue, a problem and people who are our heroes and devoting their life to our Country need better than we give them.
So, remember up above where I said it is unbelievable that the Pentagon is trying to work on a strategy, Esper said he does not know how they can prevent it in the future. He was right about 1 thing it is a national epidemic. It is key to remember that most that enlist are 18-21 year old young men, that think they have it all figured out and have no idea what they are getting into, the experiences they will receive, the things they will see. They put their lives on the line for us and protecting this country, we owe it to them to help and protect them and their families.
The Heart of a Lion Bill is simple:
Broken down into two parts.
I know the Military or at least the Army has gone to the Desert boot look and there is no more Thursday weeknight boot shining! Don't you think that might be a good thing to go back to. This is a way to find out what is going on in their minds, it builds ,bonds between them, brings them closer together. It is these little things that can help in the long run. You might think this is little, stupid, but I am telling you would make a huge difference along with other things purposed.
Part 1: Returning Home!
When Doug and others that I know first got home, they were invincible, no one could do harm to them. The military warns them about this because you see a lot of guys get hurt or killed doing dumb stuff like riding a motorcycle too fast. They are home with family and friends; they are on top of the world. You see their marriages never better because they are finally home. The initial counseling would allow the individuals to have the tools to deal with their experiences when they are ready.
There is still an acclamation period. The life that he or she left 9 plus months ago has changed, different ways of doing things, different processes around the house since they have left, it is an adjustment period not only for the soldier but for the spouse and family.
So, there should be adjustment counseling for the soldier and the spouse.
• Meet with a family counselor for readjustments back into the real world
• Have spouse go to one or two.
• Monthly check in for a couple of months
Part 2: Facing their demons! (This is the Game Changer)
Through my research the real thought process does not occur until 6-9 months in, once the excitement of being home has worn off, back to the daily grind, more time to think and process and the realization of what they have been through begins to set in. This is where the demons start to show, pop up in their heads and begin to play games. Here is what I believe should happen.
• Mandatory 15 counseling sessions when they come back from being deployed
• Monthly check ins after they go through this and get it all out and talk through it
• Counseling should be with someone not actively serving in the Military but would be good to have the military background and understanding.
• Should be encouraged to bring spouse to some sessions so they understand
It does not stop here, I have a good friend that still has Marines that he severed with Killing themselves 14 years later, so this must be ongoing which leads us to Part three.
Part 3: (Continuing to give back to those who gave to us):
As I mentioned before I know soldiers who are still losing their friends, 14-17 years later, so counseling and avenues of help can's stop now. I know President Trump just passed a 55-billion-dollar package for Vets, and that is a great start, but the number of Vets, that money will not last long. This bill pays for VA pays for private care, expand a VA caregiver program, and start a review of the VA's aging infrastructure.
Peer to Peer Mentoring Program:
""""'A peer mentor is in the unique position of knowing almost exactly what hey are facing --they've recently been through most of the same experiences themselves.
• Identify a need or goal that the other person can help you with.
o Resume Writing
o Job Search
• Identify professional characteristic that you admire and want to emulate.
• Communicate openly about their needs, goals and the skills you choose as the focus of your mentoring relationship.
• Commit to regular meetings, preferably face to face, to work on the issues and competencies you want to develop.
Other Benefits of Mentoring
• Gain practical advice, encouragement, and support.
• Learn from the experiences of others.
• Increase their social and academic confidence.
• Become more empowered to make decisions.
• Develop your communication, study, and personal skills.
• Develop strategies for dealing with both personal and academic issues.
In conjunction with Peer Mentor Program:
• Health and Benefit plans (My Research says that when the soldier gets out, they have access to Health care for 180 days and then they have to find it on their own.
• Ongoing Counseling for 1,2, 3 year (Determined by evaluation)
• Semi Annual checkups after deemed okay and steady ongoing treatment not needed
• Other type of therapeutic programs, where they could volunteer or get involved like Folds of Honor, Save a Warrior, Ones To Many, Resurrecting Lives and many others who have helped, honored, and saved many, and many other organizations like this who can help them have purpose.
• Other forms therapy
o Anchor 4Me
o TMS- Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation
It 1s amazing that a 55 million Dollar package was passed, but how do you put a price tag on people who dedicated their life to protect this country and out freedoms.
This is not rocket science, these are young men and women dedicating their life to our country, giving all of them for us, we should be doing the same and giving back to them for their service. They should not be just a soldier, or a vet, or just another instrument, they are people with loved ones who need them around, all of them just as much as the country.
Written with many tears and hopes, that you will hear the cry and consider this bill today, not next year but now.
"Earth has no Sorrow that Heaven can't Heal"
May Doug rest in peace and be eternally happy for ever and look down and watch over Manssa and his two beautiful boys and keep them safe from above.
Please this is serious stuff, this is real, every damn day this happens help me help them, let's give back to the people who have given so much to us!
Brent King I Marissa Martin
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