FORT HOOD, Texas — Everyday U.S. veterans live with trauma and struggle with the effects of war, some even take their own lives because of it.
30,177, that's the number U.S. service members research by USO.org in 2021 found had taken their own lives since 9/11.
Brave men and women signed up to fight for their country only to suffer because of it.
”A lot of us have contemplated suicide but have not followed through with it,” said Willie Keller, U.S. Army veteran and VFW Post 12209 Commander. “That is, everyone would be better off without me but, we won’t.”
The simple fact is you can’t always see the injuries of war.
”Once you have seen combat, you will never look at life the same way again,” said Keller. “For me, coming back and not being able to stand fireworks, not being able to stand crowds, I had to get help. I was still a green suiter right here and I didn’t know how to adjust.”
That’s why Keller is working to help those who share his struggle and he’s not alone.
U.S. Army Chaplain with 1st Cavalry Division’s 2nd Brigade MAJ Alison Ward and her team hard at work to help their fellow soldiers and that begins with understanding how they feel.
”For the warriors coming back or for the warriors dealing with any thoughts of suicide,” said MAJ Ward. “Number 1, you are not crazy and number 2, you are dealing with something that is very much a normal reaction for trauma and any other types of events that you may experience.”
Along with connecting soldiers with the resources they need to get help with suicidal thoughts, MAJ Sard and her team are stressing the importance of at least talking to someone you trust.
”We all could be going along just fine and then we could have that one straw that breaks the camel's back, and we just need somebody to be able pull us out of that river of suicide if you will,” MAJ Ward. “So, chaplains, behavioral health, your teammates, just being able to have that conversation can also help with that.”
The point is, whether you’re active-duty military or a veteran, you don’t have to suffer alone in silence.
”There are times when you feel overwhelmed and it’s in those moments when you need a helping hand and you have brothers and sisters to the right of you,” said MAJ Ward.
”Reach out for help. We are here. Every veteran organization is here for you,” said Keller. “Our obligation does not expire.”