Armistice Day – 100 years later

100 years ago today, the Armistice was signed, officially ending World War 1 – the war to end all wars.

Most of the rest of the world calls today Armistice Day, but in the United States, it’s Veterans Day. A day to honor all of those who have served and are currently serving. For me, it’s a day to honor and remember.

We are so grateful for the service of our Armed Forces members.

But we have a long way to go in taking care of them.

Particularly as it relates to mental health. Because there is still such a tremendous need for support and help.

 

family of veterans

Back row – LJ Kennedy, my grandfather and Jon Haddock, my father
Front row – (left) Larry Crutchlow, Alexa Haddock Bigwarfe, Jeff Bigwarfe

I come from a military family.

My father began his career as a fighter pilot in the Air Force. Eventually, he would leave the Air Force and go on active duty in the Army, flying Blackhawk helicopters.

My father-in-law served a tour of duty in Navy.

My husband served 9 years in the Marine Corp.

My mother’s father served during the Korean War as a Forward Air Controller in the Marine Corps. He would later transfer to the Air Force and fly F-100s. The F-100 would eventually take his life.

My former brother-in-law served a tour in the Marine Corp.

Two of my husband’s brothers served – one in Army Reserves, and one retired out of the Navy.

Cousins, uncles, and other extended family join the list.

There’s no shortage of military pride, for all services.

I, however, remain the only female of the group.

Perhaps one of my daughters will serve. But it’s entirely their choice. And I hope that by the time either of them makes that decision, we’ve made some improvements.

The following stats (taken from U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, American Community Survey 2015, United States Census Bureau) make me sad:

  • There are 18.8 million veterans living in the United States.
  • 3.8 million of these veterans are disabled (2014).
  • 22 veterans, on average, commit suicide every day (a rate 21% higher than for the rest of the country)
  • The suicide rate for younger veterans (18 -29) is 7 times higher than their civilian peers.
  • Female veterans commit suicide at a rate of 140 percent higher than their civilian peers.
  • The number of military spouses and families members that commit suicide is unknown

Did this stat on female veterans catch your eye?

Female veterans commit suicide at a rate of 140 percent higher than their civilian peers.

Female veterans commit suicide at a rate of 140 percent higher than their civilian peers. Help them through @TheSoldiersProj #HealingTheHiddenWoundsofWar #MeetingYouWhereYouAre #OneDay Click To Tweet

Sadly, much of the PTSD experienced by women in the military stems not from war, but from unwanted sexual interactions, comments, advances, and attacks.

But there are other issues as well. Long deployments, often with little notice, that separate them from their young children, causing fear and anxiety. This is the main reason I decided to leave Active Duty. I loved serving my country, but once I was pregnant with my first child, I could not imagine leaving for 6 months to a year.

Our veterans need our help

I encourage you, as you’re thinking about organizations to donate to and support, to consider those that are dedicated to helping veterans. Particularly as it relates to mental health and PTSD. I recently learned about an organization called The Soldiers Project. They help all veterans and their families, regardless of branch of service, particularly dealing with mental health.

The future of veterans mental health is now. Your donation furthers our ability to reach out to those living in areas with little to no services available for them. We want to expand our reach so that no veteran, military spouse, child, or loved one is left without help when they need it most. – The Soldiers Project

The Soldiers Project has help specific for female veterans suffering from PTSD, so if you know of someone in need, reach out.

There are also many ways you can volunteer and help the organization.

Going to a war zone changes you

Whether deployed into a hot zone or to a peripheral duty station, as I always was, with the exception of short trips into Afghanistan and Iraq, deployments change you.

I remember how difficult it was for me to re-integrate into normal society after returning from deployments, and I was never even faced with a combat situation. After my first deployment, during which time we began taking our first heavy losses in Afghanistan, it took weeks before I felt normal again. I remember getting very angry as I listened to my sisters argue about petty things. Didn’t they know we had people dying and they were worried about which sister dad called more often?

Years later, I still cannot sing the National Anthem without bursting into tears. I still carry the sadness of the stories from the war. And I ache for our brothers and sisters who were killed or wounded – physically or emotionally.

If this is an area in which you feel compelled to serve, there are many ways you can volunteer to help wounded vets. The Soldiers Project is just one of many.

100 years since we ended the war to end all wars. But we’re still fighting a massive battle in our country. And that’s how to help those who have gone to the front to defend us.

Thank you veterans, for your service.

 

 

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