Today, as I posted on social media, I went to visit “Growing Veterans”, a non-profit that helps veterans heal after they leave service and reintegrate into civilian life. These veterans sometimes struggle because of their experiences overseas but it can often be related to the loss of their tribe. As Sebastian Junger writes in his book, “Tribe”, leaving the military means leaving close friends, like-minded colleagues and a group of people who have lived what you’ve lived during your deployment(s). Add to that, returning to a world that should feel like home but rarely does and a sudden loss of mission, and things can quickly go south.
Growing Veterans focuses on the basics. They want you to know that there are people who understand you; people who feel the same way you do and most importantly, people who care about you. I heard a story today of a veteran who, after his return from Iraq, has not left his house…for an entire year. I met a veteran who is a recovering alcoholic (11 years and 5 months sober) and several who admitted to seriously contemplating suicide.
For different reasons, I can relate. It was Xmas 2015 – I lay in bed, resolute that I was going to end my life. It was over. I ws going down. Only when I was halfway through my suicide letter that it hit me; the gravity of what I was about to do. Today, at Growing Veterans, we sat underneath a hundred year old apple tree while Kenny (the man in charge) explained that their main focus is letting vets know that there are others out there like them, that there are people who care about them and that having healthy food on the table (ie. “feeding” yourself) is important.