Veterans Day Heartwarmer

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.

 

*     *     *

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/

Happy Adoption Day, Jacob! 

With much love from Moms and Padre.

53 Comments

Filed under Family, Health and Medicine, Mental Health

53 responses to “Veterans Day Heartwarmer

  1. A fantastic story, Elyse, and thank you for passing it on. If you ever personally hear of a soldier in trouble, let me know – I have lines to several sources of help, and have a wonderful online friend who is also a Navy chaplain – who himself suffers from PTSD and went through a period of losing his faith. He has literally been to Hell and back, and will not rest while there’s anyone he know of in need of help.
    And a very, VERY happy Adoption Day!

    • Thanks, John. I was very touched by this story, mostly because of the amazing effort these folks went through to find and save a stranger — it renews one’s faith in people. But also because it seems that we are intentionally isolating ourselves from each other — email instead of a phone call, text instead of a visit. It was great to see this wonderful outcome as a result of an online community.

  2. Happy Adoption Day to Jacob, and to you! And thank you for helping all of us to recognize the significance of this national holiday.

  3. A very happy adoption dday!
    I was recently involved in tracking down someone I never heard of because someone I never met was worried about them. That also had a happy ending.
    Sincere thanks to the vets that helped out one of their own, and I hope that story goes viral to remind us of what we owe our returning soldiers and what they need.

    And of course, Happy Adoption Day!

    • Guap, you are awesome — I’m glad your story has a happy ending; so many don’t. It is a hard thing we ask young folks to do when we send them off to war.

      Thanks for your Adoption Day wishes, too. Hopefully we will be chatting with Jacob tomorrow but we won’t see him as he is off at college.

  4. Happy Adoption Day…that photo is priceless. Our beautiful children add such richness and depth to our lives. I am glad you were so blessed.

    The story is a great reminder that the sacrifices don’t end when a soldier comes home. I’m glad this one had a happy ending.

    • I’m glad for the happy ending here, too. So many don’t and it’s a national tragedy.

      And I LOVE that picture. It’s the best one I’ve ever taken. They were quite the duo!

  5. Happy adoption day! :) (This is a phenomenal story. I love how great people can be sometimes.)

  6. Happy Adoption Day Elyse! I love the picture on the other page, sweet.

    People are awesome, despite how it feels sometime that we are disconnected I think the advent of all our wired life makes us more so not less. Just look at all the people we meet and even develop real friendships with that we might never have done so otherwise.

    This was a wonderful post, reminding us of our need for connection, of people and to thank those who give so much.

    • I guess there are pros and cons of our electronic lifelines. For this vet it was truly a lifeline. I agree that sometimes friendships that wouldn’t ever happen form — like ours! — but I know that sometimes we all ignore flesh and blood folks in favor of the computer.

      I’m so glad that this story has a happy ending. Or a happy continuation, rather.

      And thanks for the Adoption Day wishes.

  7. Happy Adoption Day! The photo of Jacob and Charlie is a heart warmer for sure. It makes me want to turn the clock back…just for a moment.

    Humanity once again over rides all of the negative and shines through with a happy ending.

    Thanks for sharing both of these happy ending stories today!

    • Thanks, Tops. I find this story so touching — I had to post it. The difficulties vets face when they come back — real problems at home, in finding jobs, in readjusting, combined with the very real problem of PTSD — it just makes this story all the more important to tell.

      I do love that picture — and that little guy on the right. We lost Charlie 15 years ago — sadly he died very young but he was the perfect dog to have with a toddler. He grew to be HUGE and as gentle a dog as you can imagine, with an instinct to protect Jacob in a very sweet way.

  8. Thanks for sharing this story. So glad that people took the time time to respond and appear on his doorstep. Words in cyberspace can never replace the voice or the welcoming arms of another human being.

    Happy Adoption Day. I am thankful for my own children who came through adoption.

    • I agree, YS, the vets who went there, who talked this man out of suicide really did the trick by being there. But it is so awesome that the power of the internet was used in such a terrific way — to mobilize, to empower, to urge these folks to do what they did. To let them know that they were needed. I bet that the actions these folks took empowered them and helped their mental health in very positives ways, too.

      I remember that your children are adopted too. I feel so lucky to have my Jacob. I know you do too.

  9. Michelle Gillies

    Happy Adoption Day Elyse!
    I love that you have such a happy story to share every year on this day.
    This day has always been an emotional day for me, as I am sure it is for many. I have always spent it with my Dad watching him in parades as a veteran. Then in later years sitting with him during the services at the arenas when he couldn’t march any more. Every year noticing that there were fewer and fewer of his generation. Finally, having our own little service in his room while watching the tributes on TV. Last year was my first year to mark 11/11 without him and I’m afraid I was a mess for days before it even arrived. My Dad would have loved the article about the soldiers you shared with us. I know it has brightened my day.

    • Michelle, I’m so sorry for your loss, although I know it isn’t recent one. I know that there are “trigger” days when all the emotions that are resting come back in full. So I’m glad I was able to share this story with you today.

  10. So emotional over this. Thank God some people care. It’s a horrible thing to reach the point when death feels like the better choice over life. And it is a national tragedy that we’re producing a vast number of people who are coming back from war so wounded in spirit. We need to do more to help them. It’s the least we can do considering what we’ve asked them to do.

    • I agree, SDS. It is a terrible situation, made worse by the constant re-upping. Three, four, five tours of duty. It is a terrible price we ask these folks to pay.

      But seeing what those vets did for someone they didn’t know really made me feel hopeful.

  11. I had a whole rant going…but decided to just leave a brief comment and save the rant for my own space. Happy adoption day to the whole family.

  12. Amazing story – These guys have to depend on each other in combat, they come through for each other when they come back home as well. Good stuff. Happy Adoption Day

    • I wrote a couple of sentences in response to your comment a couple of times, and kept having to go back and delete them.

      It’s a terrible thing that we have no effective means to help the servicemen who come home in any reliable way. That really needs to change in a dramatic way. We ask so much of them.

      But we also have no real means to help other mentally ill folks — until they are a danger to themselves or someone else, they are very much alone. It is criminal, actually. And the news is filled with the stories of folks who have done terrible things that might have been avoided had they had help. I think our whole attitude towards mental health problems is a disgrace.

  13. GOF

    Wonderful story. Thanks for sharing it, and it was also our Australian Remembrance Day as well. It is a reminder that the trauma of war doesn’t end when combat ceases. I see the never-ending pain and anguish which our close friends suffer after having lost their son in Afghanistan two years ago.

    • My heart goes out to your friends — having lost family members to natural causes I can’t imagine the pain that this loss must bring.

      I think that calling it “Remembrance Day” is somehow more poignant. Because it is a day to remember sacrifices. Every day should be one to appreciate the folks who fight to defend our countries.

      And of course, all of this makes me think of that incredible Eric Bogle song:

  14. Elyse, thanks for this post. I, like you, grapple with the impact and utility of social utilities in this day and age. But this story proves that in this case, the internet is a powerful tool that can be used for good.

  15. A very moving story about how online social media was used to help save a veteran’s life. Like many forms of technology before it, the internet is a powerful tool that can be used for good, by good people, or used very badly by those with the worst of intentions. Or it can be overused and abused by people who should cut the wall plug off the power cord of their computer, and go outside to meet and talk with other people, as a way to get a life. But in your example, it was used heroically for the best of reasons.

    Congratulations on your celebration of Happy Adoption Day! :-)

    • True, it can go either way. I just think it often leads us to forget to get together or even pick up the phone. But this was a wonderful outcome.

      And thanks for the congrats!

      • Definitely a wonderful outcome in your example, and you, John and Jacob are most welcome. :-) I wish you the very best.

        But I know that an excessive use of online social media causes many people to forget the value of real time, real life, face to face contact with other people, and can also stunt the social growth of kids and teenagers. I’ve seen many examples of it both online, and within my own extended family.

        I’ve even seen it within myself at times, when instead of choosing to go out and socialize, I think I’m happier in front of my monitor and keyboard. But I have this wife person who is a regular and very effective reminder for me, if she thinks I’m starting to drift too far off into cyber-space.

        But now that I’ve got “True Confessions” out of the way, could you do me a small favor, Elyse? I’m only asking you because I have a lot of respect for you and your opinion, and I promise not to make this a habit. Could you please read my last post again? I expanded the first half of it, and I really can’t tell if I made it better or worse than the original version that you read. If you think it’s better, just give me a one word comment of “Up”, and if you think it’s worse, reply with “Down”. I won’t be offended if I get a “Down”, and I’ll be sincerely grateful for your input, because it will help me.

  16. The story speaks volumes. Well done! … and happy adoption day to the proud parents.

  17. I got chills reading about that poor soldier and those who went out of their way to help him. It really gives you pause and also gives you hope.

    Happy adoption day to your family! What a blessing for you all.

    • That’s exactly what I thought of this story, Peg. Heartache and hope. We actually spent Veterans Day down on the Naional Mall at the Vietnam Memorial and the WWII ones. There were equal measures of both there, particularly at the Vietnam one.

      Thanks for your Adoption Day wishes, too!

  18. Still playing blog catchup, sorry I’m a bit tardy in reading your post, Elyse. Happy belated Adoption Day! It’s comforting and a big relief to read that that poor soldier was found before he hurt himself. I hope he gets the help he needs. The Internet age can be helpful for locating people in trouble, but you’re right, there’s no substitute for human contact.

    Also, in case you hadn’t seen this:

    http://news.yahoo.com/current-petraeus-affair-nothing-nation-first-sex-scandal-175016966.html

    • I’m happy about this vet’s short term help, but you’re right. I bet he has a ways to go. Hopefully he will get what he needs.

      That link is a riot — I’m so sick of David Patraeus story. I don’t care if it is him, or Clinton or anyone else. I don’t care! But Hamilton, sigh. Hamilton …. I actually saw his handsome face this weekend. We went into DC for Veterans Day (Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam Memorial, WWII Memorial and a victory tour around the White House). Our guy Al was impossible to get to, as he is hanging out on the steps to the Treasury building. Sigh.

  19. Seems like it all worked out in the end for the veteran and for you and your son. But I am concerned for the well-being for our troops. Disease, injuries, depression, changes in personality – all tag along back home with them. It’s sad.

  20. it was a very heart touching post. Thank you for sharing this inspiring story. People like Den give birth to the hope that this planet is still not short of good people.

  21. That is a remarkable story. I got all teary eyed over this one. Thanks for the post.

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