OUR POSITION: War continues to take its toll on American veterans even after the fighting has stopped.
Rory Hamilton, a U.S. Marine, left one leg and a lot of heartache in Afghanistan.
He spent months in a U.S. hospital, was personally awarded a Purple Heart by President Barack Obama and felt he had it all together despite the physical challenge he had to live with.
Hamilton, according to those who knew him, became a motivational speaker. He talked to other vets about overcoming the trauma of war and dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder. According to Mike Dalgliesh, his friends say Hamilton was doing great as long as two years after leaving Afghanistan.
Then, one day, he killed himself.
For many U.S. veterans, maybe even most, war never really goes away.
As we honor our fallen today, we must think about those who have lost their lives not only on the battlefield, but who could not escape the fighting, the death and the sometimes physical scars after they came home.
Dalgliesh, who was featured in a story recently, has spent the entire month of May walking every day to honor a different veteran who was a victim of suicide. His son, Rory Dalgliesh, was one of the many.
The Rotonda West man says an average of almost 22 veterans a day in the U.S. commit suicide.
“My son, something over there (in Afghanistan) messed up his mind and stuck with him,” Mike said. “He picked up some demons and killed himself in 2013.”
The loss of his son pushed Mike Dalgliesh to campaign to get help for other veterans suffering from PTSD. He says while there are programs to help, he does not feel the government is doing enough for them.
“Someone has to intervene,” he said. “I don’t have the means. So I walk. I walk and call out the name of a fallen vet as I carry this flag.”
The flag he carries is called the Honor and Remember flag. It is recognized as a state flag all over the U.S., including in Florida.
PTSD and traumatic brain injuries are blamed for thousands of suicides by veterans of the Gulf and Afghanistan wars and even as far back as the Vietnam war, when PTSD was not on everyone’s radar.
According to Anxiety and Depression Association of America, more than 8 million Americans age 18 and older have PTSD — and it is not curable. It is caused by trauma and serious injury and can make normal functioning challenging or impossible, according to a website on the issue. There are several therapies that can help, but no real cure anyone has discovered. Some veterans are lucky to return without the problem and others deal with it better than most. But, its impact on our returning heroes of war is dramatic.
Symptoms include flashbacks, intrusive images, nightmares, distress at reminders of the trauma and physical sensations like pain, sweating, nausea or trembling. If you know someone who exhibits similar symptoms, reach out to them and ask them to seek help. Two potential sources of help are National Center for PTSD and PTSD Coach on the web.
Like Rory Hamilton, appearances can be deceiving. Someone may act as if their experiences did not affect them, but the seed might be planted deep in their psyche.
We salute the men and women who served and died for our freedom. Think of them, and if you’re fortunate enough to be with your family today, hold them close and think of those who can no longer embrace their sons, daughters, brothers and sisters who fell on the battlefield.