Shared story from Anonymous, Active Duty Special Operations Soldier
Increasing demand from our country’s leaders, to rely more heavily upon soldiers of Special Operations in our ongoing fight against terrorism worldwide has taken its toll among the ranks. Rapid deployments to some of the most hostile areas around the globe for almost 2 decades has left more internal scars than visible ones.
From 2012 – 2014, the Special Operations community lost more soldiers to suicide than in combat. These soldier’s proficiency with the instruments of war directly correlates to their efficacy with firearms as the method of suicide.
The current national climate around gun control has undoubtedly bled over into our ranks, leaving most with more questions than answers.
Will I be able to use the gun range as my emotional release?
Will I be permanently disarmed if I come forward, with negative thoughts or feelings?
Will I still be allowed to serve alongside the Brotherhood?
Even with the military attempts to mitigate the costly numbers of suicide, too many are still reticent to speak up. Current avenues of seeking help while serving on active duty include Chaplain services, military Behavioral Health clinics, Military Family Life Consultants, or Primary Medical Providers. The focus for these services has been to help soldiers and families deal with the stressors of everyday life & service, many of which can be the precursor to suicidal ideations and actions. Where the black & white becomes grey for active duty service members is who can I trust to keep what I say to themselves.
Each entity has its own reporting instructions and algorithms, separate & independent from each other, that soldiers are expected to remember. The conscious choice to seek help is the most cumbersome hurdle for Special Operations soldiers.
Ingrained in every operator is the hardened resolve to never show weakness, always be ready for a fight, & above all nothing matters as much as the Brotherhood. Very rarely is it the career experiences themselves that push these men to suicide, but often the other important life factors that fall by the wayside.
The battle-tested men that have spent years overseas, fighting America’s wars, often towards the end of their careers find that the Brotherhood is all they have left. What do the men in the Brotherhood bond over most often? The answer is guns.
We live together in austere & often hostile environments. Most times, share our home language with only each other & an interpreter. With the very lingering realization that each of us may die by the gun, we have made a conscious decision to live by the gun. We live by it, in that shooting is both our outlet and way of life.
The administrative and mandatory tasks put to task by the leaders in Washington can be summarized as, “the garbage we do in between range days”. Understanding the importance of firearms & shooting to career soldiers who have volunteered for the most dangerous, stressful, & ultimately fulfilling occupational specialties in the armed forces is paramount when discussing overarching generalities about suicide as it correlates to gun owners.
Less than 1% of the civilian population serves in the military. Only 1% of those serve in Special Operations. While my viewpoint may just be a snapshot of a small demographic, this mentality & mindset cross all walks of life from 2A advocates, law enforcement, gun enthusiasts, recreational shooters, hunters, even just the casual shooter looking for home defense.
What needs to be avoided, is the knee jerk reactions so typical of this country today with 11th-hour legislation punishing the law-abiding gun owners that seek to remain constructively contributing members of society. Everyone can use a brother or sister in times of need. Helping those in need of care for suicidal behavior, starts with making them comfortable enough to come forward and ask for help.
Gun owners of America, much like the soldiers of Special Operations, will only take that step with the assurance that their entire way of life will not be jeopardized permanently. Only then will the most important step be taken. A step we should all be in favor of.