ON A PERSONAL NOTE/By Maramis
Second in a series on Veterans Suicide
This is the month that we celebrate Veterans Day. And while we all know veterans who have passed away, we may not know any who have passed away by their own hand.
Veterans Day is a small enough tribute to every man and woman who has served their country in any capacity. It is not just the servicemember who has been on the battlefield who deserves to be honored or recognized. I would remind people who might inadvertently or unknowingly simply not give any thought to those who served stateside or in some kind of “safe” behind-their-desk position to remember that everyone in the military cannot be on the field. Troops need to be fed, clothed, watered, have their supplies reordered and delivered to them wherever they are, keep the books to be sure everyone is taken care of, and a thousand other things that keep the whole production running as smoothly as possible.
In a way, we can look at a veteran’s role as one of the members in the production of a movie or a play. While the main actors in the story
appear in front of the camera — and they seem to be the ones who get all the credit — where would they be without the “cameraman” and the “lighting director”? And the myriad others without whom the whole production would crash.
While I’m not in any way suggesting that what our servicemen and -women do are merely comparable to actors in a play, what I am suggesting is that while they are upfront and indispensable, all the others that are supporting them in some way are also serving their
country in the roles into which they find themselves: some due to the variables of life and/or fate, some due to rotation and/or timing,
some due to the exigencies of life that may come our way, and so on.
And while all those needed to get the “production” off the ground and running ought not to be viewed in any kind of order of importance, we know that there are more people working “behind the camera than there are in front of the camera” and they may never even get the credit that is due them, except for a small running list of the credits at the end of the production that hardly anybody ever reads, not that they’re looking for any credit.
But it is, therefore, not just the battle-worn that return from a deployment that might show signs of PTSD, but any veteran that might
have reason to be in that position. Remember, unless you can read the mind of the veteran, you cannot know what is going on in their head.
Some might even be carrying around the burden that a family member or friend has died while deployed, or must live the rest of their life without arms or legs, even though he or she survived without a scratch. They might even be harboring thoughts of guilt because they
were the ones to come home without even one broken toe.
War is not easy on any level. We don’t have to tell that to those who have lost loved ones in some way because of it. Take Chris Jachimiec, former USAF First Sergeant. He had been deployed three times, and in 2017 he lost his brother, Adam Jacimiec, USMC, to suicide.
Chris is featured in a new national PSA from the End Family Fire campaign, highlighting how safe gun storage can play a role in helping
prevent Veteran suicide. Here’s why it matters: — Veterans are 1.5 times more likely to die by suicide than other American adults — and the majority of Veteran suicide deaths (69 percent) involve a firearm, compared to roughly half (48 percent) among civilians. —Guns are by far the deadliest method of suicide: 90 percent of suicide attempts with a gun are fatal, compared to only 4% of suicide attempts with other methods, on average. —Nearly half of all Veterans own at least one firearm, and access to a firearm in the household triples the risk of a suicide death. —Most suicide attempts are undertaken during moments of temporary crisis. By storing all guns in our homes securely locked, unloaded, and separate from ammunition, we can help ensure a temporary crisis doesn’t turn into a permanent tragedy.
The PSAs are the latest for the End Family Fire campaign, first introduced by the Ad Council and Brady in 2018. “Family fire” refers
to a shooting involving an improperly stored or misused gun in the home that results in death or injury. Unintentional shootings, suicide, and intentional shootings are all forms of family fire. The PSAs direct audiences to EndFamilyFire.org, with resources and tips
for safe storage.
And it isn’t just the returning vet who may be in danger of using a weapon to end his life. If a weapon has not been stored properly, as
Chris Jachimiec showed us in the PSA he made on how to store his weapon; if it is carelessly left around, left in an unlocked drawer or
storage container, or left in a place where it would be likely to be found, a child could find it and accidentally shoot one of his little
playmates. Or someone who had suicide on his mind might find it and decide that such was a sign from above that today was the day. No good can come from a carelessly stored weapon.
It might help to remember that when a veteran returns from duty, he has just been “best friends” with his weapon, maybe for years, even if he was willing and able to be in combat but never was. Once a service member has been issued his weapon, it becomes more than “just another piece of military equipment” and represents the whole reason a military component of the United States exists — whether it is used in actual combat or remains just a constant reminder of what they have gotten themselves into.
And remember, not everyone who signs up for a tour of duty in our armed forces is altruistically motivated. Some may just want to
enhance their training in the use of weapons, some may want to use their training to teach others, turn against others, or just have the
opportunity to use their weapons in what they feel is an “acceptable and authorized” kind of way. We can’t always judge recruits by what
they say or play God by deliberately keeping out those whom we feel would not be an asset to our country. I’ve been there, done that, in
my position as a recruiter for the United States Army. But fortunately, many times a recruit who made it “in” will be found to not have what it takes to make the grade by his D.I. or T.I. (Drill or Training Instructors) and will be “asked to leave” (to put it nicely).
Those instructors might well be doing their country — or even the recruit himself — a favor.
Next week I will be having a guest columnist on the subject of Veteran Suicide, Dr. Keita Franklin, Co-Director of the Columbia Lighthouse Project, who will elaborate on how to help reduce suicides by screening for suicide risk.
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Maramis Choufani is the Managing Editor of the Las Vegas Tribune. She writes a weekly column in this newspaper. To contact Maramis, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.