Veterans deal with all kinds of problems, many of which stem from their veteran status as a former military man or woman. None of these problems present themselves exactly the same in each and every instance or for each and every veteran.
In the many months that fellow Veterans and I have been doing the Veteran Information Tables, you might not believe the wide variance of the things that veterans confront and which greatly trouble them.
Recently, I wrote about how some veterans get mad with the Veterans Administration and simply stop going. I described that as self-defeating and it certainly is. If anyone wants to deal with the VA, a concerted plan must be undertaken. The key to that plan is NEVER GIVE UP!
While interaction with the various levels within the VA may seem cumbersome, the interactions do work for a majority of veterans. Stay with it, this will work for you too!
Moving away from specific VA interactions, there seems to be a very serious issue that all veterans should undertake to understand.
Suicide Prevention – It is recognized that approximately 20 veterans each day kill themselves. Not only is this action irretrievably stupid, but it hurts all the people around the self-killer; spouses, parents, children, friends and the general community.
It is not enough to brand the self-murderer a coward and try to shame others from this course of action. People take their lives for a wide variety of reasons. It is virtually impossible to recognize each veteran-suicider’s motivations.
There are three approaches that we can take in suicide prevention:
A. Internal – Trying to help a person deal with what is going on in their own minds. Professionals are probably best at this, but friends and other veterans can spot depression, negative talk and self-defeating behaviors.
B. External – Negative outward signs can also be suicidal indicators. For example, a disabled veteran may simply give up on any friends or family interaction. They may stop taking care of themselves (medically, physically and hygienically). They may stop even talking with their families, friends or other veterans.
C. Eternally – Many veterans with suicidal thoughts (before actual actions) have given up on turning to God as the ultimate problem solver. They stop going to church. They neglect discussing matters of faith with friends, family or church people. They insist on dealing with matters of the soul by ignoring the fact that God and His Son, Jesus Christ want only the best for humans.
Without a valid thought about this life or the afterlife, many contemplators of suicide use the same approach with the Heavenly Father that some veterans use with the VA—They simply stop being involved! Nothing can hurt any person (Veteran or other) more than putting God on a shelf to be ignored and apparently forgotten.
You can help prevent suicides by paying attention to those around you. Suicide isn’t always an unexpected, secret and unstoppable event. Talk to and listen to other Veterans (and others). Pay attention to signs of self-defeat. Tell professionals and others and get help – internally, externally or eternally!
Next Thursday there will be another Veteran Information Table at the Gardendale Farmers Market at the G’Dale Civic Center from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. The first 25 visitors will get a special Bless Our Veterans ballpoint pen. Hopefully everyone will get exposure to other Veterans with questions and answers going both ways. See You there!
May Our Great Heavenly Father richly bless our veterans, our military, our leaders, our first responders (law enforcers, fire fighters, EMTs and teachers). But most of all—may God bless YOU!
Gerald “Joe” Stahlkuppe is a combat Army veteran of the Vietnam War. An ordained clergyman, public speaker and author of several books, he lives with his wife in Gardendale.
Questions or veterans issues you would like to see addressed in the column can be directed to Stahlkuppe at P.O. Box 849, Gardendale, AL 35071 or emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.