“A lot of you cared, just not enough.”~ Jay Asher, Thirteen Reasons Why
Tomas Young has been paraplegic since an insurgent attack in 2004 in Sadr City. On the 10th anniversary of the Iraq War, Tomas penned a letter to former President Bush and Vice President Cheney; that letter was featured in an elephant journal article, “Separating the ‘War’ from the ‘Warrior’—A Dying Soldier’s Open Letter to former President Bush.”
For the past nine years, Tomas has been suffering from the excruciating pain of his injuries. And in 2008, when a blood clot traveled to his lung and severely affected his brain function, Tomas began what many soldiers describe as his last and final stand.
At the surface, this story seems to be telling the tale of just one soldier, Tomas Young, and his journey from 9/11 to present day. But this story goes much deeper; within its pages a more horrifying story emerges.
In 2012, 349 U.S. veterans and 167 additional active duty soldiers committed suicide; most suffering the innermost impacts of the horrors of war and the longer-term devastation of a government system ill-equipped to provide for the needs of our fallen heroes.
And though the military has sought to improve response to mental health issues, when more soldiers are killed by their own hand—rather than ‘in action’—something much more needs to be done.
I had the honor of working with a most amazing gentleman, LTC Victor Won, who during one most wonderful conversation described his personal efforts to help provide the tools for soldiers and families to survive. In an interview in the U.S. Army News, this Army officer who sacrifices his own personal time to care for these individuals, describes the goal in his ‘mindfulness training,’
“What I am trying to teach people to do is to take a purposeful pause throughout the day just to come back and be more present,” Won said. “Simply, it is about bringing our attention to the present, bringing our awareness, becoming more conscious of our life without judgment.”
The training, which was a mix of yoga and meditation, provided a much needed tool for individuals to combat stress.
“That will give you the power to work with stress,” Won said. “You will have the choice to act rather than react.”
In speaking with him, and through my own personal beliefs, I believe it’s high time we gave our soldiers the very best tools when they head into combat. Perhaps this might include making this type of training a standard part of the curriculum for new soldiers. Or, perhaps it means more people like LTC Won might invest more of their own time bringing the tools to veterans.
But, no matter what, we must do something, because something must be done.
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Ed: Brianna Bemel
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