It was when he came home from his third tour that he knew it wasn’t going to get better.
The second tour was involuntary, what they called a stop-loss.
He’d been home from Afghanistan three weeks when he was ordered to Iraq.
It was the early days, before they knew to avoid boxes in the road.
Three times he saw the Hummer in front of him blown apart by an IED, the men inside transformed to bloody rags.
He still saw them in dreams.
He pulled his truck into the VA parking lot, cranked the Zeppelin.
He opened the glove-box.
At least 22 military veterans committed suicide at VA centers in the U.S. in the last 18 months, including a Texas man who shot himself this month in the waiting room of a VA clinic.
Veteran suicide is an acute crisis wrapped in a national crisis. Between 2005 and 2016, suicide rates in the general population climbed 21%. For veterans, already taking their lives at twice the U.S. rate, it climbed 26%. More than 6,000 veterans are dying by their own hands each year – nearly 20 a day.
The best way to thank them for their service is to question America’s obsession with war. There is no glory in it, no valor. It is only death and nightmares.