There have been tons of stories in the press in the last year or so about the epidemic of suicides among veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Folks who come home to changed lives, different family structures, who have trouble finding jobs or happiness or peace have been killing themselves at a level never seen before. It is a national tragedy and it has become a mental health priority for all branches of the military, for the federal government and for mental health professionals.
Part of our society, I’ve felt for a long time, has become less personal, as we rely more and more on our computers to stay in touch and less and less on actual contact and touch. Facebook, blogs, emails are great, but they lack the human contact that we as a species need.
But I realized when I read this article that maybe I was misjudging. Because this is the story of how a soldier, alone, desperate and planning his suicide was saved by his fellow veterans when his desperate condition was noted on Facebook.
Dan, the founder of a Military Humor page on Facebook called “Awesome Shit My Drill Sergeant Said,” noticed a posting on his page as he was just about to turn it off.
“I don’t know where else to turn,” read a new message from Michael, a National Guardsman, Business Insider reported. “I’m 100% certain that my friend is planning on killing himself tonight and I cannot get a hold of him or anyone that can get to him. Can you help me?”
The troubled vet had financial problems, relationship problems, job problems. All hallmarks of a desperate situation he could no longer face.
Dan rallied the troops, literally. He updated the blog to say:
“TROOP IN TROUBLE”
“We just received a request for help from a troop that turned to us in desperation because it is the middle of the night and no one in the chain of command is picking up the phone and he sincerely believes his battle [buddy] is planning to take his own life tonight.”
The folks reading in the middle of the night rallied, figured out the general location of the troubled soldier, and went to help a man that they didn’t know.
When Dan received a text from the soldier, they were able to track him via GPS. They found him, alone and ready to die.
The article reports that the soldiers who went to him said:
“Let’s talk about what’s going on and figure out what we can do to get you on the right track,” fellow soldiers said from underneath the door.
At 5 a.m., 14000 comments and hundreds of calls and texts later, there was resolution:
“We picked him up. The soldier is safe.”
There are some truly brave and wonderful people in the world.
I wish Dan, the vets who rallied to help a stranger, and the troubled soldier a very happy Veteran’s Day.
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In our house, Veterans Day, 11/11 is a special day for another reason. This year it is the 21st anniversary of when we adopted Jacob. So it is a special day indeed.
Last year I wrote about Adoption Day, and well, here’s the post for anyone who didn’t know me then: http://fiftyfourandahalf.com/2011/11/10/adoption-day/