Soldiers, PTSD, and Suicide - Are we doing enough?
Are we doing enough?
On March 31, 2011, we lost 28 year old Marine Purple Heart recipient and humanitarian, Clay Hunt. Though Clay served in Afghanistan and Iraq, we did not lose him in a war zone. Hunt took his own life due to the war zone that continued to wage within his own mind as he suffered from depression, anxiety and PTSD – here at home.
The following is an excerpt from Clay’s obituary:
“Following his heart, Clay joined the United States Marine Corps in May of 2005, completed the School of Infantry in 2006, and shipped out to Iraq in January of 2007 as part of the Second Battalion, Seventh Regiment of the U.S.M.C. While on patrol in Anbar Province, near Fallujah, he was wounded in a sniper attack, earning a Purple Heart. Clay recuperated in 2007, and applied for and graduated from the Marine Corps Scout Sniper School in February of 2008. His scout sniper teams shipped out to an area near Sangin, Afghanistan in March of 2008 as part of NATO’s multi-national force deployed against the Taliban in southern Afghanistan. Clay’s unit returned to the states in October of 2008, and he was honorably discharged from the Marine Corps in April of 2009.
Clay cherished his time in the Marine Corps and the unconditional and absolute bonds of camaraderie that he built with his band of brothers in Iraq and Afghanistan. He often wondered why he survived when so many close friends and others paid the ultimate price for our nation’s freedom.
Clay continued to give back to ease the suffering of others in January of 2010, when he and Marine brother Jake Wood and others founded Team Rubicon, an early response team for natural disaster relief. Clay and Team Rubicon entered Port-Au Prince, Haiti one week after that country’s devastating earthquake, and immediately established field medical facilities, and secured transportation to those facilities for thousands of injured Haitians during a month-long stay in that ravaged country. Team Rubicon was on the ground saving lives long before the Red Cross and other institutional organizations were up and running. Clay found his true calling for service in the chaos of Haiti, and his warrior mentality along with his compassion for others were the perfect combination to deliver “hands-on” medical and other humanitarian aid to those so desperately in need.
Clay also went to Chile in 2010 with Team Rubicon to aid earthquake victims in that nation, and returned to Haiti in June of 2010 on a follow-up mission. He also “felt the pain and did something about it” of his fellow veterans by participating in four Ride2Recovery challenges to raise money for struggling wounded veterans across the U.S. Additionally, he helped lobby Congress on behalf of Iraq-Afghanistan Veterans of America for better and more timely delivery of benefits for our veterans of these two conflicts.”
Like many young Americans, Clay felt called to serve our country in our Armed Forces. He served with pride, honor, and respect. He suffered physical wounds, but the psychological wounds he suffered would prove to ultimately take his life.
In our society, we fix the body, we make repairs to the bones, the organs and the tissue, but we so often overlook the trauma that rages inside the mind and the soul. PTSD and other anxiety disorders associated with trauma are very serious, and plague countless people, including myself.
Members of the military often do not seek help because of the stigmas that these disorders carry. They are fearful that it will affect their military records or their prospects for future employment. Some are just fearful that once they begin to acknowledge this war in their head – they will have to deal with it.
When our men and women who are serving in the military war zones throughout the world return home, whether due to the end of their deployment, or because of an injury, we celebrate. We have parades and big “welcome home” ceremonies. We forget that they have been in a world that we would not dare go, doing unimaginable things. We think that they can just return to life as they left it and be the person that they were before they deployed. They can’t. They will never be the same. They are forever changed. They can get better, but they cannot do it alone, and not without critical support.
Clay Hunt was trying his hardest to defeat the war raging in his head. He was serving in humanitarian missions, and even lobbied Congress for assistance for returning Veterans. He knew that he was fighting an extremely difficult battle within himself. Clay’s tragic death will not be in vain. We must all begin to raise awareness of these issues and do whatever we can to give these men and women the support that they need – and absolutely deserve – so that they can transition back into civilian society and begin healing their mental wounds alongside their physical wounds.
So, I ask again: Are we doing enough?