During this time of year I attend a lot of events honoring our veterans.
Itís one of my favorite assignments.
To see young military men and women stand before a gymnasium full of students and share their pride for the uniform and the country they love.
To enjoy a breakfast meal with the old veterans who fought and sacrificed so much for our freedoms.
Some of their stories are sad, some are funny, some are horrific.
Yet, here they are representing our finest and sharing their experiences.
I truly do enjoy these assignments.
But I want to tell you about another group of veterans I know.
Those that have come back wounded, not so much with visible battle scars but emotional wounds.
Trauma that is not so easily noticed.
For sixteen years I worked in a behavioral health/addiction center.
We treated thousands from all walks of life.
We had a criminal justice unit, a mothers and children unit, a first responders unit, and we had a veterans unit.
Iíve heard countless stories from those who served and came back broken in so many ways.
One memory that Iíll never forget centers around a particularly emotionally distraught young man.
For the purpose of this story Iíll call him Greg.
Greg was in his mid thirties and had been on our unit several times.
Each time he returned he shrank further into himself.
He was ate up with fear.
Fear of loud noises.
Fear of the dark.
Fear of failure and tired. Greg was tired.
He had returned for another try at sobriety and mental wellness on a Monday morning. He was admitted and assigned a room. Greg isolated in that room. He wouldnít come out to eat.
He wouldnít attend groups. He laid on his side, towards the wall, sleeping, and sometimes just staring out.
Nurses, psychiatrists, and counselors were in and out of his room trying to engage with him to no avail.
Wednesday evening before I left my shift, I got Greg up and to the kitchen table.
He was dressed in scrubs with a blanket around his shoulders.
I begged him to eat just a little before I left. He took a few bites, smiled meekly at me, and went back to bed.
Greg was tired.
A few hours later, I received a phone call at home, that despite all safety precautions and staff interventions, Greg had found a way to kill himself.
Iíll never forget that a man who fought for our country and defended our nation, had come back so emotionally broken he couldnít get out of the pit of despair he had fallen into.
According to the Defense Suicide Prevention Office, 325 active-duty members of the military died by suicide in 2018.
I pray for them and their families and I will honor them. Iíll remember Greg and every time the National Anthem is played Iíll stand.
Iíll stand and remember that a man who fought for my freedom died on perhaps the loneliest battlefield of all, his own mind.
God bless him.
See you out there.