No one truly understands why Clay Hunt, one of the military’s most vocal suicide prevention advocates, took his life on March 31, 2011. As one who watches the disabled veteran in my family suffer, it looked to me like Clay Hunt had it all together. I say that from the perspective that Clay was lobbying for veterans on Capitol Hill, road-biking with wounded veterans, and performing humanitarian work in Haiti and Chile.
If my disabled vet was in a place where he was capable of even one of those tasks, I would think he was well on his road to recovery. I have hope, but I’m well aware of the long path we will travel before he is in a good place and my vision of a “good place” is far more simplified than the place where Clay Hunt seemed to be, from an outsider’s perspective, prior to his death.
Knowing that PTSD is a big part of our family’s reality, it scares me to my innermost core to think about the fact that Clay Hunt took his own life. People like Clay gave me hope. Clay told me that my Marine could do it because Clay was doing it. Clay was speaking for my Marine because my son is not ready to speak for himself. Clay was speaking for me because, from my experience, it seems like no one in this system will ever listen to a mom’s cries for help.
Clay was determined to make sure that our combat veterans suffering with the invisible wounds would not be forgotten, misjudged, and shoved aside. People listened to Clay and now he’s gone. I’ve got to know that someone else will step up and stand in the gap for thousands of combat veterans who desperately need a voice.
Jake Wood, founder of Team Rubicon, Marine veteran, and close friend of Clay Hunt, understands the significance of the growing suicide epidemic. Recently interviewed byNPR, Wood stated the following: “Well, I think it’s very convenient for the country to not know, and I guess not care, about what’s happening with our veterans and our active duty service members and the suicide epidemic that is growing. And when I say that I mean that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were a front page issue for a number of years.
And they’ve since gotten off the front page, and they are now buried in the middle of the newspaper. But I don’t think there’s anything more important than, you know, the fact that our nation is at war, and we have been for almost 10 years. You know, this issue needs to be front and center at the highest levels of our government and there needs to be a very open and candid conversation at the highest levels of elected officials as to what this problem is, what caused it, and the best way to move forward on how to fix it. And I don’t think that conversation is happening, and if it is, it’s not getting the attention it deserves.”
Exactly! The conversation has started, but it’s certainly not getting the attention it deserves. One reason the issue of the combat veteran’s suicide is not getting attention is because we don’t want to talk about it if we believe we are not personally affected. It’s a depressing subject.
Truth be told, however, we are all affected. Thousands of returning combat veterans are living in our hometowns. They work in our businesses. They attend our churches. They shop in our stores and many inhabit our city’s homeless shelters. They are a part of us, and rightfully so. Look at what they have given on our behalf. The more we look away, the more insignificant they feel.
Another reason that the combat veteran’s suicide is not getting the attention it deserves is because no one within the highest levels of government is really listening to the people who are on the front lines attempting to keep their combat veteran alive. No one within the system will ever be able to figure out what’s wrong if they don’t walk outside and take a careful look at what is really going on. There is a huge disconnect between the combat veteran who is afraid to ask for help and the leaders who have the power to make real changes. Leaders, you must cross over that bridge and gather the information from those who are holding the bridge in place. You must actively seek feedback from the family members (and I am expressly referring to parents as well as spouses) who know what really lies between you and the combat veteran.
I can’t tell you how tired I am of being made to feel as if I am clueless because I’m just the mom. I’m tired of my warnings falling on deaf ears, only to find myself in another crisis that could have been avoided. Stop reacting to a parent’s pleas with defensiveness and LISTEN! Do you really want to fix the problem? Surely you know that if you ignore it, the problem will not go away. You must take some constructive criticism and use it as a tool to better your health care system. You may know war, gentlemen, but you do NOT know my son!
In the last moments of Clay Hunt’s life, I have to think that he knew his suicide would rock our world. Clay was tired of battling the demons, but he also knew we could not ignore his final message. On behalf of my son, the other veterans suffering with PTSD, and the families who’s cries go unheard, I thank Cpl Hunt, for a job well-done. He has passed the baton on to us. Now, my friends, what are we going to do with it?
~ submitted by vet’s mom