When Dr. Jack Kevorkian became “Dr. Death”, some thought of him as an “hero” and the phrase “Dying with dignity” became popular. He would assist terminally-ill patients to end their lives on their terms. He would show them the way to mix various medications for injection, hook them up, and had the person inject the deadly cocktail into their system. He served several years of jail time, but yet he opened the door for debate AND legislation to allow terminally-ill people to commit suicide. Many think this would save billions in medical expenses, caregiving, and relieve the burden of loved ones watching these patients dying a slow and painful death. On the other side, many are against the issue because they believe that people will play God and not allow all other options which might bring healing and relief to their loved ones. It is a very delicate subject and an emotional matter which many will argue their case for it.

     But should someone share the title of this article, it is almost assured that MANY will be against this because of patriotic reasons and that all veterans deserve to live life with dignity and respect. However (using this word which changes direction), can Americans say with a clear conscious that they truly believe this AND live it out? Many would look at programs like Wounded Warriors Project and say, “Yes we do!”; shouting it from their pulpits and political perches. But in all honesty, and this is NOT to discredit Wounded Warriors Project in any manner or any other such programs for assisting our veterans. These programs are limited in their efforts to fully support and assist our veterans. HUD estimates that 49,933 veterans are

homeless on any given night and 1.4 million other veterans are at risk of becoming homeless. Approximately 573,000 veterans were unemployed in 2014 (Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics); that number is expected to increase in 2015. The divorce rate for veterans with PTSD is three times higher than veterans without PTSD. Other negative effects include compromised parenting, family violence, divorce, sexual problems, aggression, and caregiver burdens. (Source: National Center for PTSD) What our veterans have gone through since 9/11 has greatly caused severe distress on our soldiers and their families and has left many veterans facing uncertain futures. But it doesn’t stop there…

     Many will come home to a hero’s welcome, be embraced and honored for approximately 3-6 months before the REAL reality settles in: depression, PTSD, addictions, mental illnesses, dealing with disabilities, reintegration into society/family units/work force, issues from trauma (mentally, physically, emotionally, ethically, morally, and theologically) are but a few of the hurdles which our veterans must overcome. Complicate these with understaffed VA hospitals which leave veterans wait ungodly lengths of time before being treated, underfunded programs which were designed to assist the transition from battlefields to civilian living, the high demands for work and yet limited programs for veterans to learn skills for the workforce and you have the very poisonous cocktail which assists veteran suicide. (Thus, you have the reason for the title.)

     Society is causing our veterans to commit suicide at an alarming rate; even if there is only one veteran who takes their life, it is one too many. We take people from a young age, train them and equip them to face the horrors of war and to see and do the most horrifying things in battle, we return them back into society and expect them to function “normally” in society, relationships, and in the work force. And when they fail, we blame anyone and everything but ourselves. WE have failed our veterans! WE have not prepared them to take off the emotional baggage they carry back from war, to assist them in developing strong social and interpersonal skill to reintegrate them into their home and family life, to teach them to feel and to use emotions once again, and we haven’t supported them with what they NEED to become the person many knew before they were deployed. We haven’t assisted their families to expect a different person back from deployment, to deal with being “single parents” while being deployed, how to face the realistic possibility of their loved one not coming home “whole” (physically, mentally, emotionally) or home at all, how to adjust to the demands of a loved one coming home with a disability (financially, being a caregiver, etc…) and so on. WE have failed them when we pay multi-billions of dollars for sending these veterans to fight our battles and the battles for other’s freedom and only pay a limited millions for their benefits and caregiving afterwards!

     Is it any wonder that the broken marriages (marriages which stay together but are dysfunctional), the divorce rate (which differ from broken marriages), the crime rates (domestic violence, aggression, murders, road rage, …), addictions, mental illnesses, and even suicides are on the rise for our veterans? We have stripped away their dignity and hope and expect them to serve as they did during their deployment: just follow orders and ask no questions. America is not only giving our veterans the needle; it’s sticking the point deep into the veins and is injecting the lethal dose into their bloodstreams! When will this all stop???

     If we TRULY honor our veterans, it MUST stop now! But even with saying this, it’s not an easy fix… it will take a great deal of time, patience, love, devotion, finances, rehabilitation and hard work from countless people like ourselves. We must give back to our veterans what they gave up for our freedom: hope. Hope that they will be truly accepted back into society, hope to support their families in the manner they wish to, hope to not be tossed aside like yesterday’s newspaper (meaning that they will not be forgotten), and hope in our great country once again.

      Help support the various agencies and programs which assist our veterans. Write to your representatives in Congress and the Senate to pass bills to increase funding for our veterans to get them off the streets and into homes, to provide competent mental health benefits for those coming home from deployment and their families, to re-acclimate our veterans into the workforce and society, and to provide whatever else is needed to truly honor the sacrifice they gave for America.

It’s time to remove the needle from our veteran’s arms and assist them to live instead of helping them to commit suicide.

Outreach Director at FreedomSystem.org
John is a pastor at a local church in Angola, and does prison ministry, as well as work with troubled and mentally unstable people!

"What type of legacy do you want to leave; one which dies with you or one that lives forever? It is not the wealth, power, or fame which makes the memory, it is the relationships we are a part of."