“Deployment was hard but working through all the issues that war can leave on a soldier and family is honestly what is the hardest.”
On Friday, 25 April I walked into my office as my normal energetic self, ready to take on the day’s issues. I wasn’t quite prepared to take on a suicide.
Most of the general public is aware of the increase in veteran and military suicide rates because “dirty laundry” and deaths attract the viewer. What the public is less aware of are the reasons behind those suicides.
In the nine months I spent interviewing military couples for my book, there were three common themes that were pain points for a number of the families: Over-medication, delays in benefits and uncertainty /confusion in the marketplace.
Common themes are code for “problems,” and here is how the “problem” lifecycle typically shakes out: I’ve got a problem (mental, physical, employment, etc.). I work to find the solution but there is confusion in the marketplace or the person helping me is not really helpful (or it is taking forever). So…frustration sets in. Pile on more delays and that leads to despair. Despair drives some to alcohol (to deal with the despair) and while that is a challenge, imagine if the VA has me on several different medications (not uncommon). At some point, more than 22 veterans a day decide to “check out.”
One of those individuals decided to “check out” on Thursday. He was the best friend to one of my team members.
With large multi-service force drawdowns and restricting incoming budget cycles, more service members and families will be making the transition – and the need to focus on next mission and new purpose will be vital if we as a nation want to reduce suicide and some of these pain points for our military families.
Get involved. Be a part of the solution. Be a friend to someone in the military. If you are hiring, consider the talent, skills and experience of a veteran; maybe your needs will align with his/her needs, wants and desires. Don’t watch and wonder – be proactive.
Mike Miller, a recently separated Navy veteran who is new to civilian life, has been assigned as a participant in the Qualcomm Corporate Integration Program (QCIP) for Warrior Veterans, and will be chronicling his experience, telling his story and giving insight, real-time, to others out there making the transition as well.
I encourage you all to follow Mike – this is your opportunity to get a glimpse into the life of someone who is going through the transition to civilian life phase. Observe, learn, and explore how you can be a part of making a difference in the lives of those who said ‘yes’ to standing on the front lines.
Bottom line: Gaining a better understanding of the experience is the first step to being a part of the solution. Mike has landed on his next mission – certainly not without some frustration – but he is on a good path forward. There is no question all of us can learn from his real-time chronicles.
— By Michael Schindler
Michael Schindler, Navy veteran, and president of Edmonds-based Operation Military Family, is a guest writer for several national publications, author of the book “Operation Military Family” and “The Military Wire” blog. He is also a popular keynote and workshop speaker who reaches thousands of service members and their families every year through workshops and seminars that include “How to Battle-Ready Your Relationship” or “What Your Mother-in-Law Didn’t Tell You.” He received the 2010 Outstanding Patriotic Service Award from the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs.