Our veterans’ suffering hurts us all
June 29, 2014
Every 65 minutes an American veteran commits suicide. That's right, more than 8,000 veterans a year die at their own hands. Last week's featured speaker at the Rotary Club of Glenwood Springs was Adam McCabe. McCabe is co-founder of Purple Star Veterans and Families and a board member of Huts for Vets.
McCabe, hands down, was one of the most moving and passionate speakers I remember in my 20-plus years as a Rotarian. As a show of hands at the meeting demonstrated, nearly everyone knows a veteran. But not everyone knows the demons many of our vets fight daily.
Why doesn't the military provide the same training to re-enter life after the trauma of fighting for our county? Now we know that a VA hospital in Phoenix allegedly covered up deaths of veterans who were on a wait list for care. Good grief!
McCabe and his organization are pushing the government to begin providing therapy prior to furloughing our military personnel. In the meantime, his organization is providing hut trips and a cognitive behavioral therapist to help those suffering with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Typically a group of 12 vets at a cost of $10,000 go out on the trip. Donations can be made at hutsforvets.org.
It isn't just the veteran who suffers but also the family and others in the community. I know firsthand. My dad was a World War II vet who suffered with PTSD. Dad was in Patton's 3rd Army. He was part of the Normandy invasion and was on the front lines in Europe way too long. He was awarded two Purple Hearts and later in life a Bronze Star due to the length of time on the front line, although they did not heal his wounds.
While not diagnosed back than, he had all of the symptoms of PTSD, including alcoholism and a codependent personality that caused a great deal of pain in our family. Despite all of that, deep down he was a great man whom I loved dearly.
In his early '80s he came to live with me in Breckenridge. Suffering from Parkinson's disease and the side effects, which caused him to drift in and out of reality, I finally got a better picture of the mental anguish he suffered over the years. Top that off with blindness and other ailments, he was a bit of a physical and mental mess, and I am so happy to have been able to spend that summer with him.
He would have night terrors going back to the horrors of war, screaming out in the middle of the night. I learned from my mom that had been common throughout their marriage. I didn't know. One day I found him at the base of the bed with his oxygen tube around his neck. Dad tried to hang himself from the bedpost. This was one time I was happy he did not have his wits about him, as the bedpost wasn't high enough for him to do the deed.
As a result of a challenging childhood, I too have been diagnosed with PTSD, which is not uncommon for children of vets. So Adam's talk hit home — and quite frankly tore me apart as the terrible memories I had buried deeply away came flooding back.
Our veterans deserve more and I appreciate the work Adam, a veteran himself, is doing for his brothers and sisters. I encourage you to give your time or money to help our vets in their well-deserved recovery right here in our backyard.