Years ago, a coworker of mine at the fire department, let’s call him Rick, had a son who joined the Army in the buddy program. Steve (the son) joined with his best friend, Sam. They went everywhere together. Basic training, combat medic school, and eventually, Iraq.
While they were in Iraq, Steve received a Silver Star for his actions in combat when his unit was ambushed. He later told me that there were so many RPG’s flying by, that you would have thought they were next to the factory that made the damned things. Steve risked his own life to carry multiple wounded soldiers to safety while under fire. The one that he couldn’t carry, Steve laid on top of him and shielded his body from further injury with his own.
Steve came back from Iraq a changed man. I know, because I knew him both as a boy, and as a veteran. I watched him as a teenager, then became his paramedic instructor when he returned with his best friend Sam and they tried to adapt to civilian life.
Sam just couldn’t make the adjustment, and his demons eventually caught him. Sam took his own life several years after returning. The man that he was, was killed in Iraq.
Sam was one of the 22 veterans each day who commit suicide. Even though he didn’t die while he was there, he surely was wounded down in his very soul. One of the things I have always complained about with the US military is that they don’t prepare their members for the life that comes after. You barely get a handshake and a kick in the ass on the way out.
Even though they didn’t die while IN the service, the service was certainly a large factor in their deaths. Honor those who gave all, some years after their service. Sam deserved better than that.