My boots standing behind Adam's boots, Armistice Day 2008
I lost a few friends during the war, but I lost even more afterward. Adam, whose boots I display at every speaking event I have (yes, those are his boots), killed himself less than six months after we returned. He wasn't the only one. And there were many more attempts. A Sergeant in my platoon showed up at my door one night covered in blood and crying. He was crying because he "hadn't the guts" to do himself in properly, but only bleed himself out a bit. I dragged him back to his car and drove him to the the ER. He spent the next two weeks on the "13th floor", and my family and I visited him every day. He made it through, and has been comfortably back in society for a long time now.
Suicide is a legacy of combat service. My grandfather, my great-grandfather, and my great-uncle all killed themselves violently not long after returning from war. Every single suicide story I read or hear about strikes a deep chord.
I wrote this for a Vietnam-vet who was also a Veteran for Peace.
Not On Any Wall
Lines and shapes etched in a stark face of black,
Paper rubbings to take memories in tow,
Strong men stand with arms on another's back,
One hand on the wall and one on his brow.
Another made it out but never home.
Lost long ago to bloodlust, fear and hate.
The name is missing, my soul left to roam,
The wall's reflection shining back my fate.
My eyes, not recognized, react in shock.
History's alarm pulls me back alone.
Don't think. Don't dream. Don't blink. Shut down the lock.
My wall is stronger than any of stone.
They say I survived, but I know they're wrong.
My face is in the wall — where I belong.
When you see someone in need, don't be afraid to reach out.