For desperate or troubled veterans, there are options and resources

For desperate or troubled veterans, there are options and resources

Summary: Whether the wars they fought were right or wrong, these men and women stood up, put their fellow citizens first, and put their lives on the line.

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2012 Update: And, again, another year has passed. They say time heals all wounds, but time also opens new ones. Many of us have lived through the effects of Hurricane Sandy or have loved ones or friends who have. Many over the last year have found footing in their lives, only to see if washed away to sea. And still, my friend is gone. His little girls will never get to know him. His community will never hear his laugh or benefit from his strength. My wife and I were talking about him, just this weekend. Still, my oldest and closest buddy, is gone.

2011 Update: It's hard to believe more than a year has passed since my friend passed. There are many days I just want to give him a call, tell him what I've been up to, share with him a new scheme or project. His time is over. But for many vets, there are still options. If you're a vet or you know one who needs help, please point him or her to the resources below.

Originally published on November 11, 2010

Today is Veterans Day in the United States, Armistice Day or Remembrance Day in other countries. Today is also the anniversary of the signing of the Armistice that ended World War I.

Today is a day where we celebrate and thank our troops for putting their lives in harm's way, sacrificing and challenging themselves on behalf of a (not always) grateful nation.

Unfortunately, not all veterans are celebrated and not all veterans have a happy or fulfilling life once they come home.

Life can be very challenging for vets and while America provides some resources to help veterans at various stages of their post-service lives, sometimes those resources aren't enough, sometimes the veterans don't know about them, and sometimes, sadly, the veterans just choose to not avail themselves of help.

This is a very personal Veteran's Day for me.

A long-time friend, a man who served in the Navy 20 years ago, died this year. After he left the service, life was not kind to him. He married badly, the divorce ended acrimoniously, visitation with his two little girls was blocked by his ex at every turn, and -- in this economy -- keeping a job was beyond either his ability or his emotional strength.

And then, as he reached his late 40s, health problems set in.

Although we spoke regularly, there's little a buddy from college can do to help from 1,000 miles away other than lend emotional support. I pointed out resources he could turn to, options for getting and keeping a job, and tried to encourage him to make pro-active changes in his life.

My friend always tried to find something positive to talk about or to say, but the cold math of life had apparently pushed him too far into the negative, into the dark.

Clinicians might describe his condition as depression, and that was certainly a factor. Undoubtedly, after setback after setback, downturn after downturn, disappointment after disappointment, it was harder and harder for him to get up in the morning and keep trying to find work in construction, an industry decimated by the housing crisis and down economy.

One day, the call came. My friend had killed himself.

This was a man trained by the United States Navy to operate nuclear reactors, a man who had to pass test after test, challenge after challenge, to qualify for one of the most challenging and select positions in America's military.

This was a man who became the best he could be, served his country, did his duty, and sacrificed for the greater good.

This was a man who was once willing to put his life on the line for America, a man who just couldn't handle life after the service.

Programs for veterans that can help

Ever since that day, that call, I keep thinking it didn't have to end this way. I keep thinking there are resources that could have helped him. People he could have talked to. Programs that could have helped him manage his health problems. Programs that could have helped him manage his emotional challenges.

I pointed many of them out to him, but he could not bring himself to use them.

Those programs are there. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs offers a tremendous range of services for veterans. It offers educational assistance, health assistance, home loan assistance, and vocational assistance.

The VA offers a wide range of mental health services. In addition, and perhaps most important, the Veterans Administration also offers suicide prevention services.

If you or a family member or friend is in trouble, you can call 1-800-273-8255 any time of the day or night. Trained, caring professionals will be there to help.

Look, if you're a vet and you're in trouble, don't take the path my friend did. Do one more service for your country and call the suicide prevention line and talk.

If you've got a friend or family member in trouble, it's easy to get scared or get angry. Instead, use the resources linked to in this article to get help. Contact the VA, ask for assistance, help, and advice.

Our veterans

Our veterans -- our veterans -- deserve to be celebrated, not just one day a year, but every day. They're not just veterans. They're fellow Americans, friends, sons, daughters, dads, moms, brothers, and sisters all.

Celebrate vets by being kind, compassionate, understanding, supportive, and respectful. Hire one, if you can. Love them, cheer for them, applaud them, and stand by them.

Whether you believe the wars they fought were right or wrong, these men and women stood up, put their fellow citizens first, and put their lives on the line. While they served, they put their lives on hold, often slept in cramped, uncomfortable, dirty or downright life-threatening conditions, often ate food none of us back home would tolerate, and through it all, did their challenging, dangerous, often highly complex jobs with skill and professionalism.

No matter what their politics, I haven't met a single veteran or serving member of the military who doesn't believe, deep in his or her heart, that he or she is fighting for us, our freedoms, and our way of life.

So, thank you, veterans, for your service to our country.

P.S. I normally encourage a lively debate in the TalkBacks, but not this time. This time, whether you're an American or not, whether you supported our recent wars or not, please be respectful. Regardless of the decisions of their leaders, these men and women deserve -- deserve -- your respect.

Topics: IT Employment, CXO, Health, Legal

About

David Gewirtz, Distinguished Lecturer at CBS Interactive, is an author, U.S. policy advisor, and computer scientist. He is featured in the History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets and is a member of the National Press Club.

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Talkback

29 comments
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  • Excellent column

    One would think that the government would have better programs for helping highly trained people transition to civilian jobs which allow them to use their skill set.

    Great column.
    HollywoodDog
    • RE: For desperate or troubled veterans, there are options and resources

      @HollywoodDog ,,, I don't know what's out there today, but the gvt put me thru college, guaranteed my first mortgage, and before separatiion provided me with a 3- mnth cvilian-return transition program. The only benefit I haven't yet known that I'm aware I have is a flag for my coffin when I die and a 21-gun salute. And I'm asking for those to be used when I die. I've been disabled/house bound for so many years I have no friends left and expect a tiny showing at my funeral, but I do want the flag and my medals to be shown for me for those who do come.
      tom@...
  • Another vote for Excellent Column

    Too often the soldiers/sailors/aircrew get blamed for the decisions that the government make. Today is the day to let the veterans know that we appreciate their efforts.

    Remembrance Day for me.
    snberk341
    • RE: For desperate or troubled veterans, there are options and resources

      @snberk341 ... and I cannot tell you how good it feels to read your and others' words like yours.
      twaynesdomain-22354355019875063839220739305988
  • RE: For desperate or troubled veterans, there are options and resources

    Mom & Dad are both veterans. Father in law is a veteran. I owe my lifestye and all the freedoms I enjoy - to mom & dad and hundreds of thousands of others like them.
    inkwell
  • Well said

    Being a Vietnam era veteran, thank you for saying what so many of our GI s have not heard and the willingness to share sources to aid them when their world turns sour.
    gene920
    • RE: For desperate or troubled veterans, there are options and resources

      @gene920 ... An excellent post and article too. It's great to hear even if we don't know you in any way.
      twaynesdomain-22354355019875063839220739305988
    • WELL SAID +1

      @gene920 ,,, sAME HERE; Naval Air Force, VAP-61 A-3's
      tom@...
  • RE: For desperate or troubled veterans, there are options and resources

    Thank you. For all the great groups who support Vets, Thank you. For all the ones who gave the Ultimate cost, for those who never made it back, for all the families and loved ones who made their own sacrifices to support our troops. Thank You.

    RM2(SS)
    mtnclimber12
    • RE: For desperate or troubled veterans, there are options and resources

      @mtnclimber12 ... Thanks for including those who never made it back. I had to leave some outstanding people behind, two of which are still mia. So few people ever seem to think about the supreme sacrifices these people made.
      twaynesdomain-22354355019875063839220739305988
  • Whether right or wrong?

    "Whether the wars they fought were right or wrong, these men and women stood up, put their fellow citizens first, and put their lives on the line."

    Some wars were so wrong because they didn't put their fellow citizens first.

    Not all veterans are made equal. The ones that chose to fight in righteous wars (as ugly as they may have been) and the ones that were drafted (even for unjust wars) deserve all the honours and respect.

    Those that chose to fight the unjust wars meant to impose your own values or even just favouring the interests of your corporations deserve none.
    rarsa
    • Clarification

      I meant "All the honours, respect, compassion and support".

      None of them should be homeless. None should be sick without care. And most important: None should beg for money from the people which enjoy their status on the backs of the veterans.
      rarsa
    • RE: For desperate or troubled veterans, there are options and resources

      @rarsa

      You don't "chose to fight the unjust wars". You chose to serve your country and your fellow citizens. You make a vow, a pledge, on your honor. "I, (state your name), do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God. "

      The politicians - the elected representatives of the citizens you've sworn to protect and serve (per the Constitution) - chose to fight the wars.
      Dr. John
      • Point taken

        @Dr. John So I re-reclarify

        I meant "All the honours, respect, compassion and support". to ALL the veterans. And shame on anyone that do not help ensure they live a dignified life.
        rarsa
      • RE: For desperate or troubled veterans, there are options and resources

        @Dr. John

        "You chose to serve your country ...."

        And why would anyone in their right mine do that? Patriotism is the refuge of scoundrels. Seriously, anyone who joined the US military any time recently gets no respect from me. At least the Irish military focuses on peacekeeping, not invasion.

        TRiG.
        Timothy (TRiG)
    • I have to disagree here

      If we end up fighting unjust wars, the fault lies with the politicians that made the decisions to fight them, not with those who answered their country's call (most of whom are not in a position to make an informed judgement).

      The only service people who deserve our contempt are those who dishonor their country by engaging in criminal activity.
      John L. Ries
    • I have to disagree here

      If we end up fighting unjust wars, the fault lies with the politicians that made the decisions to fight them, not with those who answered their country's call (most of whom are not in a position to make an informed judgement).

      The only service people who deserve our contempt are those who dishonor their country by engaging in criminal activity.
      John L. Ries
  • RE: For desperate or troubled veterans, there are options and resources

    I think one of the things that is driving the high soldier suicide rate is the fact that we have been forcing them to kill so many innocent people. For example, in Iraq alone our troops have murdered 77,000 civilians according to the Pentagon's own estimates. All these dead women, men and children were considered collateral damage in the search for WMD,s which never existed. Of course, some of them were trying to defend their country, just like we would if somebody invaded the USA.

    I'm sure the same ration holds true in Afghanistan, which is another place were we make our soldiers kill innocent people. I think current ration is for every one bad guy we kill we have to murder approximately 1,000 innocent civilians. Not exactly a cool thing to do.
    slabor
  • How about speaking to the ugly side of military politics

    It?s the men and women in our armed forces on the ground who have to do what the armchair generals in DC dictate; the same folks who often could care less about the troops. Why do I say this? Two words, depleted uranium.

    It used to be the policy of the military that no one was allowed to even handle this stuff without protective suits and now they have them using DU ammunitions without any protective gear.

    How about the abuse by the insurance company(s) that manage the life insurance policies of men and women lost while in service? These guys made a deal with the VA (who knew exactly what the deal meant) which allowed the insurance companies to stop sending to the surviving spouse the money form these policies and instead send them checks that are supposedly attached to accounts where that money sits. This allowed the companies to keep more money and for longer and in some case keep it all together because the widows had no clue what the checks were for.

    Anyone can say support our troops but it takes someone with heart and guts to risk telling the ugly side of military politics in which our men and women are the pawns.
    BlueCollarCritic
    • RE: For desperate or troubled veterans, there are options and resources

      @BlueCollarCritic Today is not the day for that.
      David Gewirtz