Veteran Suicide

Let’s be honest. War has had a confusing role in our modern society. It’s often too quick and painless to most of America for anyone to really take notice.   I don’t know what it is like to come home from War to an entire society mobilized for that same effort such as World War 2.  Instead, most of us only know what it is like to come home from War to a society that hardly noticed apart from free chicken strips on Veteran’s day.   If you have followed this blog for anytime, you know that I am a Marine Veteran of Iraq circa 2003. I feel like I have to mention the year, because despite Iraq being recent news, 2003 seems like forever ago. So if you are the 17 year old reading this blog for the first time, you were 6 years old when I went to Iraq. If you are the father of an 11 to 12 year old kid, you were in labor and delivery while I was at war. Time passes for us all, right?  No, not for us all actually.  For some, time stands still.

Unique as the Person

I served with 2nd Platoon, Kilo Company 3rd Battalion 23rd Marines.  Now I didn’t win any medals of valor. However, when the enemy went “pew, pew, pew” at me,  I went “pew, pew, pew” back. That is about as much claim to fame as I can pursue. Nothing special.  The rest of the time was spent broiling in the Iraqi sun.  Apart from the time that is I hitch hiked back to my unit after getting sick. But that is another story for another blog.  Point is, I don’t want anyone to confuse my way with words as some claim to being the baddest Vet on the planet.  My beard is too weak to be special forces, they would never let me in.  However, FRAY the movie doesn’t try to convey the historic story of a Medal of Honor nominee. Rather, its the story to which most of us Veterans can relate to one degree or another.

Unprecedented Mediocrity

Here is the truth. Everyone’s War experience is as unique as the person. Maybe your daddy loved you, maybe he didn’t.  Maybe you got sent to Fallujah and maybe you got sent to Najaf. Maybe you were assigned to 2nd Platoon and maybe you were assigned to 1st. Lastly, maybe 2nd platoon patrolled this street and 1st patrolled the next. Meanwhile, your life changed forever as a result depending on which scenario you got.  This is what makes Fray so striking.  It profiles an experience that some of your Veteran brothers have almost certainly had if not you yourself. If I’m entirely honest, it made my eyes sweat a little. But i’ll explain that later.

You see, I was lucky. As a reservist, I had a great job with a purpose driven non-profit before Iraq and was thus able to return straight to that job upon my return.  It is in fact the same non-profit that I work for today over 11 years later.  They will never actually know how much they did for me to help me make the adjustment back from War by just being who they were as a company. But they did and they meant it. Its when I consider my fellow Veteran who might have not been so lucky that my eyes begin to sweat.   I have heard from others that they had to come back to frivolous jobs that treated them like no more than an inconvenience for bothering to return and mess up their staffing patterns. Having just returned from being as alive as any man can be, they are now forced to die to the 40 hour grind of a job that could care less about them. It’s a hard thing.

FRAY the Film

Look, FRAY is an independent film.  If you don’t know what an independent film looks like, then you are missing out on some of the most honest art that film has to offer. Yes, you can wait for an Iraqi War movie made by Michael Bay or Quinton Tarintino where a $100 million dollar budget means you get to see every ounce of enemy brain matter we dispersed over there. Or maybe, just maybe, you can watch a movie that captures the reality of the experience to return from War in this modern age. A movie that captures it in it’s simplicity and it’s honesty.  FRAY does that. I’m not getting paid to plug FRAY, I just found the movie and liked it.  I found it on Amazon Prime and they even have a Facebook page you can follow here:

Myself, I returned to a great job, but still couldn’t quite hack it.  Despite returning to a great job in 2003, I couldn’t quite make the adjustment to a normal job routine. So I set out to teach English in China in 2004.  Now full disclosure, I didn’t find what I was looking for in China and spent most of my time drinking. I mean part of it was economics.  A good beer was cheaper than a Coke over there in China.  Thus I returned to the non-profit company that I actually feel cares about me to this day and God was good to bring me out of it all.  It wasn’t that I had PTSD or anything like that. It was just that this humdrum life couldn’t compare and that is what I was trying to recreate whether it be with vice or adventure. I found fulfillment in neither and that is another aspect I think Fray gets so right.

Look, I mentioned in my article, A Case For Veteran Purpose, how much I think the problem with the Veteran adjustment to this world is not the Veterans themselves and more likely problems with this life here in America.  The same Veteran you may pity here in America was a hero in war worthy of all your greatest esteem.  But now he returns to this world and this world forces a wounded veteran to scrape by enough money just to pay rent when he was once a Jolly Green Giant roaming the earth with a gun.  Please allow me to steal that line from Full Metal Jacket. The truth is, this earn a paycheck and keep a good credit score life rings hollow to most Veterans as it should.  Fray gets that right. I have had the opportunity to talk online with the Director for FRAY and I read from him a sincere desire to tell a story that is too often overlooked as 22 Veterans commit suicide each day.

A Phone Call Away

If you watch the movie and it was not your experience then, great. But weep for the fact that it portrays the life of many of your brothers, some of whom are no longer with us. I am not an emotional man, but when I started putting the faces of some of the great Marines I knew to the scenario displayed in FRAY, well, then my eyes sweated a little. I hated the thought of it.  To think that any of my 2nd Platoon brothers could be a mere phone call away from the end of their life was less than pleasant.

Veteran's Day

Check in on your brothers. Not tomorrow, but now.  You never know when they might have just had to humble themselves at an interview for something as simple as an Ice Cream shop. When you watch Fray, you will know the scene I am talking about here. Fray has won more prestigious awards than any acclaim this blog can give it.  However, I just want to put in my 2 cents as you never know. Maybe you watch it and that prompts you to make the call that could save the life of one of the 22 vets whom will end their own before this very day is out.

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