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My experience with veteran suicide was before I was in the Army by Justin L.

My first exposure to veteran suicide happened not while, or after, my time in the Army, but years earlier, when I was an 11 year old boy, home from school just in time to get the news my older cousin, who was my big brother almost, recently discharged from the Marines, had shot himself. It hit hard. Dean had instilled a desire to one day, be in the military like him. While on leave, he'd drill me in "attention" and "at ease" commands, bring me home cool gifts like a Marine camo cover, and take me for rides in his nice, shiny old school convertible. Then, bam, he was gone. I couldn't process it at the time, and the current man I am, a heavily tattooed, 34 year old gorilla like hulk with a heart of gold, is tearing up even typing this. Understandably so, one of my biggest causes is fighting veteran suicide/ supporting veteran issues in general. It means a lot to me, because I deal with a lot of the same shit, too. I'm a risk myself, by survey and doctor's standards. I try to act like I'm fine usually, but I have had and still do struggle with some "veteran's issues" and other messed up shit myself...mostly a lingering guilt over what ifs that really couldn't have been different anyway, and the pain of having lost friends overseas I in no way could have saved in reality, but my mind, my mind constantly plays over that it should have been me instead. They were good dudes. I came home, and for a good stretch of time, did everything I could to kill myself, without actually killing myself. I have purpose, hope, and plans again... I've really come a long way, but mostly by doing things the hard way. ( YOU don't have to!) Life is so short, and not a promise. There's no guarantee of a tomorrow. Reach out NOW, and start the process. Don't be the stubborn jackass tough guy, like I was, suffering intensely and making all those who were part of my life pay for it. I know how it feels to battle the shit in your head day after day.. .and that's all it really is...shit, because no matter what your head is telling you, you're actually strong, a survivor, worth so much, capable of amazing shit and not a failure by any fucking means. However far down you've fallen, I promise you the pain, regret and so on is nothing compared to how sweet it feels to rise back up like a rocket motherfucker. And while it may not be right away, know that you definitely will rise back up. Remember how nerve wracked and worried your mom/wife/off post stripper lady/best friends you get sister were while you deployed? It sucks to see them like that, huh? You ending your struggle leaves them with a lifetime of worse pain, I've seen it destroy my aunt, and my railroad careerman, usually emotionless, cojones of steel uncle as well. If not for YOU, reach out for THEM. No matter what you're going through, no matter how bad it feels or how dark or hopeless it all is, please don't give up. I promise, it gets better...and the damage left behind after you give up is terrible. I'm nowhere near squared away myself, but I and many others who've been in your shoes can actually listen well and give great advice that we can never seem to follow, to my fellow veterans (or anyone) please don't ever hesitate to hit up organizations like 22 Until None when you're struggling. It's ok to feel broken, lost, weak, sad, like a failure, etc etc. You're not. We will never judge ( I've done more stupid shit than you have, most likely, and I've fucked up more times than I can dream of counting), will always drop anything to be there, and through helping you, we help ourselves, too. We're stronger together. Personally, I'm far from a good person, but just know as another veteran that sincerely gives a shit, I always have your back. Regardless the circumstance. Don't take that lightly, reach out and let your fellow veterans help carry that heavy load for a bit. We're more than happy to, and even when everyone else has given up, we will be here. Now, drink water, change your socks, and let's do this!

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