You know, I like to watch the popular outdoor TV shows just as much as the next guy. And as much fun as it is to watch Hank Parker and the crew catch monster bass somewhere down south, or to ride along with “Uncle” Ted Nugent and listen to his banter…
All the money in the world could never replace what we do. Regardless of the amount, and regardless of the intent, money is no match for our work.
I recently had this argument with a to-remain-nameless Huffington Post writer (because I think he’s a good guy and don’t want him trolled over this). Our arguments were essentially the same in our desire for results, however we differed largely on the path to the desired results. No matter the amount of money involved, it cannot begin, continue, or even end our pursuit to stand with our veterans. The mission is beyond financial. When I presented this argument to the writer, he stated that without fully funded suicide prevention hot-lines, our mission is not complete. This is not only absurd, it is false. It’s false because it completely neglects to research our mission. Suicide prevention hot-lines do have some impact on preventing suicides. The United States Department Veterans Affairs states;
Since its launch in 2007, the Veterans Crisis Line has answered more than 1.25 million calls and made more than 39,000 lifesaving rescues.
39,000 lifesaving calls seems like a large number – because it is. But what is not factored into those almost 40 thousand calls is how many felt that they had no support or resource on the front-lines of their lives or how many of those fell back into their dark-times and had to rely on “battle-buddies” or friends they served with.
The front-lines, like it or leave it, are none other than us, the community. It’s not veterans only, it is not white on white, or black on black or any variation of race, color, creed, sex, political, or economic background. It is all of us in the community. We are the front-lines. Veterans are our responsibility and our family. We do not even have to like them personally. Not every one will take up their case, and that is understandable, whether I like it or not, some people do not support our military or those who are now considered veterans. There is nothing that I can say to those people to change their views. That view, only serves to place a larger burden on the shoulders of those who understand that veteran suicide prevention is a community effort.
Welcoming veterans home or for their service is a small step, it is something that matters – but it is not part of the fight. The fight is quite literally a “fight” sometimes. It is full of dirty work, it is full of painful moments, and it is full of negativity. Perhaps that is why there are so many suicide prevention organizations as opposed to suicide prevention fighters – it’s easier to throw money at a problem then to dedicate your life and heart to something that in one moment could all be gone. I get it, it seems like a losing battle.
Something involving the dirt, grime, and pain of another individual will never be easy to deal with. It cannot be. So we cannot expect to feel the “warm fuzzies”. This mission of saving our veterans will be one of the most negative fights we ever fight. It will be more daunting than Republican versus Democrat social media arguments. It’s real life, it’s agonizing at times for all those involved and there is little to no reward. Sounds like my kind of party – really.
I am thankful for suicide prevention lines, I almost called one once. I was given their card in case of emergency. However, I didn’t call them – I stopped the car and sent a text-message to my wife stating that I was not thinking correctly. She didn’t send anything profound or long-winded – just a note that I was a good father and she loved me. She was just present and accounted for at the time of need – no pay, no big business card or national advertising campaign. Just there. She has been there twice. I’ve told the story over and over again, but my wife has been a true warrior on the front-lines of veteran suicide – out of sense of duty, sense of obligation, and compassion.
This is being written on September 2nd, 2014 – my seventh wedding anniversary. It is also exactly two years to the day that my wife hobbled into my garage with a severely sprained ankle, and on one leg wrapped her arms around my waist and held my 200-plus pound frame up while my neck was in a noose fashioned out of an electrical cord. There is no amount of money for that battle she fought, her work was priceless. We need more warriors and front-line civilians of our communities ready to talk, ready to stand with, and ready to listen to our veterans. The suicide hot-lines will always be there, and that is not a bad thing, but perhaps their existence should be a reminder to us of our somewhat failed obligation to our veterans. Our money does not hurt, but if all we ever do is pay and donate for services, we will miss the human impact of our positive actions directed at our veterans. I fear money will only cause more suicides, because the real prevention happens when our imperfect lives interact with a veteran’s imperfect life. There is no better picture than a woman on an injured ankle, going beyond her own comfort to support and man with an injured mind. We’re not perfect, but our work is priceless.
As we gear up for the start of the fall hunting season, or as I like to call it, “1000-yard stare selfie season”, we start becoming more self-consumed. I am no different, it creeps in on me as well. However, I once watched a video of a man after he shot a buck in which he spoke on camera to his kids about “this” being the reason he’s never around and that they will understand one day when they grow up. Read that again and digest it.
That message speaks volumes. Hunting is fine, obsessive hunting is playing with fire. Hanging a thousand deer on our walls will never be a replacement activity for the responsibility of raising a son or daughter. It’s not justifiable at all. There is therapy in hunting, but we can’t replace responsibilities with therapy – we need a balance.
Do something with me this year fathers; donate one of your scheduled hunts to your family. Take one of those trips and scrap it to spend time doing what your family wants. We could take it even one step further by investing the same amount of money we would have invested into the hunting trip, back into our families. Before anybody tries to go with the ole, “I take my family hunting with me”, that doesn’t count – we are still on our terms when we are hunting, even with our families. Donating a hunt back to our families means we do what they want, where they want it, and it can’t be hunting related. Let’s not make a big deal about this either, let’s just do it.
There's really only one way Chili sees to help the crisis confronting veterans
Chili explains the mission and vision of the crew at “Chili Off The Grid”. More than 20 veterans a day commit suicide – that number is incredibly high – even higher than normal population figures. Something has to be done about this problem. Chili and the crew meet it head on by being right down in the mud of life with veterans.
With his wife on the pistol range, Chili decides that it is a good time to teach his son about firearms safety. Teaching children the importance and safety involving firearms cannot be started too young – even if they don’t appear to understand, teach them.