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posted: 11/11/2017 2:00 PM

Editorial: Understanding the unseen wounds of veterans

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  • Darian Blanks, right, an Iraq war veteran, talks with Roman Ortega Jr, director of Veteran's Affairs at Lewis University in Romeoville. Blanks twice tried to commit suicide but has turned his life around and now wants to counsel other veterans.

      Darian Blanks, right, an Iraq war veteran, talks with Roman Ortega Jr, director of Veteran's Affairs at Lewis University in Romeoville. Blanks twice tried to commit suicide but has turned his life around and now wants to counsel other veterans.
    Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

 

Every 45 hours.

As senior staff writer Marie Wilson so poignantly details in a two-part series beginning in today's Daily Herald, Illinois loses one of our service veterans to suicide every 45 hours.

It's a crisis, and of all the obligations we have to our servicemen and women, effectively responding to it is one of the greatest.

"In war," Argentine writer José Narosky famously observed, "there are no unwounded soldiers."

Returning veterans tell Wilson that service changes them but they are changes that family or friends may not recognize or understand.

Understanding.

Taking the time and making the active effort to understand, it turns out, is one of the most important individual things any of us can do.

"Sometimes, it's the veteran's perception that 'People don't understand what I went through,'" Michael Brennan, a psychologist at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, told Wilson. "It leads to isolation. It can create significant problems. That can exacerbate the problem and result in someone thinking of a permanent solution to a temporary problem."

Every 45 hours.

How do we extend that average? How do we put distance between thought and deed? How do we extend a helping hand? How do we replace that average with never?

And in the process, understanding.

We pray that veterans understand, too.

We pray they understand that there are other veterans who once felt the same sense of hopeless despair but who, with help, climbed out of it and now lead productive and happy lives. That it is possible.

We pray that veterans understand that there is hope; that help is available; that they are worthy of that help; and that reaching out is a strength, not a weakness.

If you or a loved one are in crisis, visit the nearest emergency room, call the Veterans Crisis Line at 800-273-8255 or visit www.veteranscrisisline.net or www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.

Veterans Day just past brings us special reflections on the contributions and sacrifices of our veterans. It reminds us how many heroes fail to recognize their own heroism.

We are so thankful for their service.

"As we express our gratitude," John F. Kennedy said, "we must never forget our highest appreciation is not to utter the words but to live by them."

Every 45 hours.

Let's show our thanks by saving lives rather than losing them.

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