“Let no neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.”
– Army Major General John A. Logan
Major Logan said these words in 1868, after establishing May 30th as Decoration Day, a day of memorial to honor those soldiers who lost their lives during the Civil War. At the turn of the century, this day became known as Memorial Day, and several states followed suit in adopting this annual day of remembrance. In 1971, the United States Congress officially recognized Memorial Day as a national holiday. Today, ceremonies take place across the country to honor those who have served our country and paid the ultimate sacrifice.
Here at Fight the War Within Foundation, we strive to remember those whom we have lost to military service every day of the year. We salute the families of the fallen for the service and sacrifice of these heroes, and we will always be an open heart, ear, and resource guide to support them through the challenges that come with loss.
Although many families feel a sense of pride on this day, there are many who are left feeling empty, angry, and numb. Memorial Day has historically honored only those service members who lost their lives on a battlefield, while families who have lost their hero here at home, feel as though their loved one’s sacrifice is unappreciated, unacknowledged, and forgotten.
As suicide numbers continue to climb at an alarming rate, various studies show that over 22 military service members and veterans end their lives every single day. The Veterans Affairs Office now recognizes these deaths as being service-connected, under the condition that said service members who were previously diagnosed with a mental health affliction which resulted in their suicide. In situations where this criteria is met, families are eligible for benefits with the VA, including health insurance, educational benefits, and counseling. However, some military branches and specific states may or may not recognize the death of a loved one as service related, creating a web of confusion and frustration for those families left behind. The DOD does not issue Gold Star Lapel Pins for these families, and non-profit organizations who render aid in similar situations, are divided when addressing this gray zone of survivors.
To all of you who fall into this category – you are not alone. Fight the War Within has created relationships with many organizations who do recognize your loss and will be here to support you through it.
Then there are service members who never found the strength to walk in the doors of a VA facility, who were never formally diagnosed with a mental health condition. There are those who were discouraged from pursuing help from the VA, who heard nothing but horror stories from fellow service members that were turned away or treated poorly at their facilities. And there are those who were discharged with “other than” honorable conditions, who suffered internally, and then died by suicide.
For the families of these warriors who lost their battles, Memorial Day is not only a reminder that their loved one served and sacrificed, but also that their sacrifice is not honored because of the circumstance of their death. To all of you in this situation – you are not alone. There are non-profits who understand the disarray of the VA’s system and the conditions that your loved one may have been in as the direct result of mental struggles. Know that Fight the War Within Foundation will be here for you and your families as you navigate the vast resources out there.
So on this day, regardless of what category you may be in, know that your loved one is a hero for raising their right hand and serving our nation. Their service is what keeps our country free, and we remain grateful for their dedication and service. If you are having thoughts of suicide today, please reach out to someone. You matter and we will be here to get you to the help that you need.
Fight on, warriors.