This speech was given by FTWWF founder and President Miranda Briggs, at the Man22 Suicide Awareness Run in Fayetteville, North Carolina, Saturday, May 22nd, 2021.
Spoken straight from the heart, her words echo the same sentiments that many of us feel during this time of year as we remember those who gave it all. In sharing her story, Miranda, and of us here at the Fight the War Within, hope to inspire and empower others, not only to fight against the demons that plague them, but to also rally in our mission to end suicide.
Hello. Thank you so much for having me here today. It is an honor to be given the opportunity to speak with you all on such a difficult topic.
When Rick first approached me about speaking, I was hesitant, to be honest. Because there aren’t any words that can bring comfort for this kind of pain. There’s no bibbity boppity boo for the speeding up or reversing of time that can change the parts of grief that we don’t want to face.
As we approach Memorial Day, I know how hard of a time of year that it can be for families of 22 a Day. Our heroes are not always recognized for their service, which can stir up a whirlwind of emotions. Know that this run is a place where we CAN come to remember our heroes and be proud, as a community, of their service to our nation. I pray that as a whole we can change this someday.
As we gather here here today, we are reminded of so many difficult losses. Despite our different journeys that have brought us here, I am reminded as I look out now, that we also have a couple of things that connect us all. The first is pain.
Every single person here today has been impacted by suicide. My heart goes out to each and every one of you. Know that you are a part of a larger family. I know that none of us ever hoped to be a part this club, but we are here now, and we are together in this moment.
For that – I am blessed. I am reminded at this event every year that I am not alone in my war. Your faces and warm embraces share strength that gets me through some of the darkest days, and that is powerful.
Now I don’t know everything, but I am certain that as dark as some of the darkest moments can get, there is strength buried. We all have to dig deep enough to find it. We can’t prepare for or choose everything that happens to us in this life, BUT, we can CHOOSE to find the light out of every darkness.
I choose to speak about this difficult topic for an amazing person – our daughter, Essex.
Studies show that a child who loses a parent to suicide are 300x more likely to follow suit.
Both Garrett and his mother Carla lost their battles. To me, the reality of what storms lie ahead motivate me to be open about mental health with our girl. And sweetie – I won’t stop talking about this.
One thing I promised you, Es, is that your dad will never be just a name on a stone or black ink on white paper. Remembering our loved ones is what keeps them alive and it is now our responsibility to continue to say their names. I want you to know that your dad was 6’7″ and was a complete goofball. I want you to know that he was always tripping over his own feet and was hitting his head on ceiling fans. I want you to know that he put hot sauce on EVERYTHING that he ate and that he was so OCD that you would GET IT if you touched the air vents in his Jeep. Hell – I even want you to know that on our second date, your dad started choking on his food and threw up all over the dinner table…yes…that really happened. And yes….I still married him. Above all else, I want you to know that your dad is a hero for his service to our nation, and that he was a devoted husband, father, son, brother, and friend.
Like so many service members, Garrett struggled significantly when coming home from Afghanistan in 2013. He fell through the cracks from his time in the 1/75th, to his time here in the 82nd, to the care at the VA for getting the help that he greatly needed and deserved. After reaching out so many times to so many different people and places, Garrett lost his internal war on January 31, 2018, Garrett lost his internal war. This was 15 days after our daughter was born.
Losing him changed everything. Life was a complete blur. I went into investigative mode and ordered all of his service and health records to try to make some sense – ANY sense of the madness. What I learned shifted how I now see mental health.
Talking to a counselor one on one is a great form of therapy, but it is not for everyone out there. Being a part of a community and making a connection to those around you is IMMENSE for those fighting an internal battle. Garrett did not have those connections.
Thus, the vision to start a non-profit was born.
A close group of friends started coming with us to Savannah area VFW, Legion, and other veteran based group meetings. We listened to their concerns and their stories. From here we saw that it wasn’t that there weren’t available resources – the issue is that organizations often come with strings of ego attached. That’s when we heard our call sign. How could we become a part of changing how our community sees mental health?
July 6, 2020 is when we got our 501(c)(3). We molded our mission towards filling the gray zones and gaps that this world is full of. And there are a lot.
Fight the War Within Foundation’s mission is to connect those of all walks to mental health to those fighting wars REGARDLESS of branch of service, era of war, or discharge status.
Through emergency grants, care packages, community events, teaching, and growing our all volunteer resource connection team, we hope to put ourselves out of business.
If this message is hitting you hard today or if you are having thoughts of ending your life – know that you are not alone and that YOU MATTER.
You have impacted more lives than you can imagine. Missing you would go beyond measure for what you have brought to this world.
Ending your life doesn’t end your pain – it only transfers it to those left behind who love you the most. They will live with that until their last breaths.
You are NOT beyond help, and there is hope still. You just have to reach out for a life vest. There are so many people and places that are here and are HAPPY to lend you one. I said earlier that there are a couple of things that connect us all. The first is pain- but the second is love.
Thank you all so much again.
Fight on, warriors.