Passing the Torch

I have spent a lot time the past few years conducting suicide intervention training at the different army reserve units I have been assigned. One thing I’ve learned and believe to be true is that when a person is thinking about suicide and is willing to talk about it, you must take their reason seriously. No matter what the reason, it’s a valid reason. At least to the person contemplating taking their own life. I’ve also learned that no matter what the reason given, there are always underlying issues to go with it. Things build up to a breaking point until the person just can’t handle it anymore. The issue the person may be telling you about might only be the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. As was the case with me when I attempted suicide last year.

I had a number of things that I let build up inside of my mind. I knew there were things wrong with me, both physically and mentally. I tried to deal with them alone and deny what was going on with me because I thought I could cope with it by myself. I didn’t want anyone to know how bad it had gotten for me, but of course everyone could see changes in me. One of the things that was hardest to come to terms with was that if I shared some of my issues, it would likely end my army career. I knew I wasn’t right in the head. I knew I had a number of physical issues. Any of the problems from either could be cause for me to have to leave the army. And I did not want to deal with that.

But now, in the last couple months, I have come to terms with the fact that it’s probably time for me to let the process run its course, which will include a Medical Evaluation Board that will end with me getting out of the military. I’ve been told it’s a long process. I will have plenty of time to think about things and reflect on my army career. My career was probably different than most that served. I did almost 4 years after high school, had a fourteen year break in service, then went back in in 2007. I served in a variety of units, met some awesome people, and traveled the world. I don’t want it to end, but it’s time. I’m satisfied that I did my part. And I’m proud to have served. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

It’s time to pass the torch to the younger generation, the ones who still believe they are invincible. Maybe that’s what happened to me, I realized I was no longer invincible. It’s time to pass the torch to the ones whose backs are still sturdy, knees are still strong, and minds are still unshakeable. It’s time to pass the torch to the ones who can still live up to their own cockiness. Every warrior goes through this at some point. They come to the sobering realization that they’ve become old and tired and might even feel somewhat worthless. Or at least I did. But I believe now that my worth is not based on what I will do from here, but that I have value in what I have done. Too often we confuse the two.

While in Afghanistan, I was being interviewed by phone for the local paper for an article that also got picked up by the Stars and Stripes. The interviewer asked me why I do what I do (join the army, go to war, etc.). I replied, “Hopefully we’re over here so our kids don’t ever have to be.” Only time will tell if that ends up being true.

Last year my oldest son enlisted and I could not be more proud of him for continuing the family tradition of serving in the United States Armed Forces. He joins grandfathers, my dad, a number of uncles, cousins, and a grandmother in military service. He is going to make a great Soldier. I can see that already in him. And while I hope he never has to go where I’ve been or see what I’ve seen, I know he will do a great job if he does. He may get called to go to battle one day. He may walk where I did in some far away land. And I know he will do well and serve with honor. So I pass the torch to him and his generation to pick up where I left off, to continue the legacy that I am glad to be a small part of.

My hope is that the army and the other services continue to improve in the area of behavioral and mental health issues so that fewer Soldiers in the future have the issues that some of us have now. They have made much progress in that area since I originally enlisted in 1989. Getting help is encouraged and has become less of a stigma than it used to be. Unfortunately, most of us are hard headed and resist getting help. That was me, and it almost cost me my life. I’m getting help now. I can’t stress enough for someone to get help before it’s too late. And that it’s ok to get help along the way to maintain a good level of mental health. Watch out for each other. Take it seriously if someone is experiencing suicidal thoughts. And remember, no matter the reason, it’s valid to that person. Lastly, when it’s time to pass the torch, don’t fight it to the point of death. It’s not worth it. Find another chapter in your life to start.  There will always be worthy warriors to pass the torch to. For me, that’s my oldest son. HOOAH!

Thank you for taking the time to read this, I welcome your feedback. Share this story for someone that might need to see this.

Good day, God bless.

Dave

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16 thoughts on “Passing the Torch

  1. My brother, I didn’t know you felt like this. Thanks for sharing your story with us. I pray God will keep on guiding you as He has done so ever since you were born. Your ministry as a CA is so valuable and seldom recognized. I’ve met quite a few and when we met, first in Ft. Hood and later in Afghanistan, I’d have to say you brought peace to my soul, brother. I know God has better plans for you and your testimony will be of much blessing to many. You have a brother in this Chaplain, and you have a brother in PR. Dios te bendiga, hermano.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for sharing your story; it resonated with me a lot, at least the way you feel. It’s hard to write, but you give me courage to write. Thank you! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Very powerful. And indeed, the military is different than it was for our generation. I enlisted in 1990. The concept of “mental health” did not exist back then. I remember going to our Chaplain for assistance and being asked if this was something our Commander needed to know about. Of course I said “No”.

    I am so proud that our military has chosen to invest in helping our Soldiers and their families in new ways. Certainly, there is still a long way to go, but I am of the philosophy that a strong Warrior is physically and mentally healthy and can focus on their job without worries about problems at home. I think your son is joining a great tradition that you helped create. Both of you can be proud.

    Liked by 1 person

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