November is a month that tends to bring a lot of emotions around our house. I say this as Veteran’s Day approaches and we tend to pause, remember, and honor those who have served and especially those who have served with Sam.
VETS stands for Veterans Exploring Treatment Solutions. This is a non-profit organization that provides resources, research and advocacy to improve the quality of life for U.S. Veterans and their families.
Here’s more from their mission:
VETS intends to change the landscape of Veteran healthcare by providing meaningful alternatives in addressing mild traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress. VETS intendeds to END the veteran suicude epidemic.
I follow VETS and want to learn more about their organization and work because I know the founders. And the work they are doing, the impact they are making is really going to change the way our military members come home.
So, during my Facebook scroll, I found something VETS shared via a video. I did not realize the impact the video would have on me until I watched it twice.
Sara Wilkinson shared the story of her husband, Chad, a US Navy SEAL who served for 21 years. Sara bravely shared how Chad fought alongside the best of the best. At one point, Sara mentions that Chad was gone for 297 days.
Sara goes on to say deaths occurred around 2008. From my experiences with Sam, much like Sara discusses in the video, your Veteran may get quiet, they may not say a lot. The loss of a battle buddy, a comrade, a fellow soldier, is traumatic.
What struck me is when Sara described how Chad did not reach out to friends and that it was behaviors and things he did that was simply “the way he is.”
It’s really easy as a spouse to just put them in this bucket of that’s just how they are, that’s what I did with Chad.
As things became worse for the Wilkinson’s Sara noticed that Chad would get “short fused” as she called it.
At that moment the tears started flowing down my cheeks.
I knew what she was talking about.
I knew the moments of reclusiveness.
I knew the isolation.
She knew he seemed different.
I knew Sam was different.
Sara wanted to help, she wanted to make her husband feel better, to just sit with him, be with him, hold his hand and she realized she could not find him.
When we think of Veterans coming home, we are happy, we are elated that they are on home soil. We do not realize what they come home and carry. The weight of deployments, the weight of losing brothers and sisters, the weight of being away from the action.
We may not realize that all those things that our loved ones carry can become too much.
Sara lost her husband to suicide.
She thought he was unbreakable, and like so many of us, we think that our men and women that serve, that go into battle, face life and death situations, go to hell and back are unbreakable.
Often we do not see the signs, the pleas for help. It took a lot of reading to understand some of the experiences Sam was having after returning home from three combat deployments.
It took a really bad experience on a family vacation to realize we could not continue hiding behind a mask (no, not a COVID mask, but a mask of “everything is fine”) and living the way we were.
Some Veterans and their families experience heartbreak, loss, and pain. There are some Veterans who isolate and keep their problems inside, away from others,
For those of you wanting to know more about Sara’ and her family, please visit VETS: Veterans Exploring Treatment Solutions on Facebook. Once you are there, please view Sara’s video and watch how she and the legacy of her husband are making an impact on helping other Veterans and their families.
To learn more of the story of the founders of VETS, Marcus and Amber Capone, please watch this video:
I have known Amber for a long time. Growing up in a small town does that, gives you connections and friends. Although it has been years since I have seen Amber in person, connecting with her and learning of her family’s struggles, reading their story, learning of their mission and outreach has made me so incredibly proud to know her. Stories are so important, stories matter. And you never know how sharing your own story could inspire or help another.
So, to honor a Veteran and to do something good on Veteran’s Day, if you know a Veteran, could you reach out to them? Give them a call, send them a text message, post to their social media and let them know you are here. You are here for them whenever they need you, whenever they need to talk, you’ll listen. Do a buddy check. Honor a Veteran.