By: Staff Sgt. Melissa Braun, USAF, Retired
There’s a lot of forgetfulness when it comes to veterans. This isn’t to say veterans are forgetful – more so feeling forgotten. From Saigon to Afghanistan, transitioning into and out of the military, undiagnosed and untreated ailments tied to service, and many instances in between, veterans often feel forgotten.
Waves of feeling like our service was for not can take over a once positive and unstoppable veteran mentality. This can lead to depression, anxiety, suicide, addiction, and life-changing circumstances that a civilian signing a 6-year military service contract may not have comprehended or even seen coming. We are promised financial stability, job security, free schooling, a chance to travel the world, personal growth, etc., but there is neglect in noting possible side effects from the hardships that come from military service.
And telling someone struggling to reach out for help is a big ask when they’ve likely been taught not to digest traumatic events in a healthy manner for the sake of carrying on the mission.
For those reasons and more, we decided to build a community of resources and support that doesn’t just regurgitate the words, “reach out for help,” without any backing. There must be acceleration behind the thought. And with the help of like-minded veterans and civilians in our local community, we are taking this approach and breathing as much life into it as we can.
LCPL Thomas Rivers Memorial Post 12185 in Alabaster is the “we” I am referring to. There is an additional reason behind the passionate push to connect with veterans suffering. Our post namesake was born out of tragedy. LCPL Rivers, the first Alabama native to be Killed-In-Action (KIA) during Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) in Afghanistan on April 28, 2010, is our “why.” We want to build on his legacy and tie his name to hope.
We partner with organizations like Vettes for Vets, Blue Star Salute, Support Our Soldiers of Alabama, etc. to capitalize on our assistance efforts. We can do more together and like raising a child, finding stability and healing takes a village – a village of action-seekers.
In a tribute to LCPL Thomas Rivers, U.S. Marine Corps Commandant, General Charles C. Krulak said, “Excellence doesn’t just happen. It must be forged, tested, and used. It must be passed down and woven into the very fabric of our soul until it becomes our nature.”
We veterans who have felt the shocks of war, along with organizations who dedicate their existence to improving veterans’ lives – have not forgotten those who held up their right hand in the defense of this nation. We are weaving the never-leave-a-warrior-behind ethos into advocating and bolstering the veterans who carried on the mission without healing. And we don’t require the veteran to reach out.
The majority of our assistance comes from word-of-mouth mentions of a struggling veteran. That’s all it takes. We work with loved ones, friends, neighbors of veterans who could use a little light in overwhelming circumstances that create a tunnel-vision sense of isolation. We don’t broadcast the circumstances and small team of committee members puts their efforts into action.
We take the right hand that once swore to uphold the safety of the United States and simply extend it uphold our brothers and sisters in crisis; an action that won’t be forgotten to those who need it so much.