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By: Nicholas Goodman

Trigger Warning: Terrorism, Mention of Suicide

I was five years old when the Trade Center collapsed. When the school caught wind of the news, my kindergarten teacher rushed to turn on the classroom television in time for school faculty to crowd around the broadcast. We saw the second tower fall. I was supposed to be reciting the alphabet, but my grade school curriculum was derailed in order to learn how to process the mass grief of a nation. The events on September 11, 2001, followed by the consequential mending and healing of the United States, planted a sense of protection and responsibility for my country within me.

At 18 years old, I enlisted as a Marine. I began in Operations and was stationed at the Marine Corps Air Station in Iwakuni, Japan. I was sent to Clark Air Base in the Philippines, Anderson Air Force Base Guam, and the Naval Air Station Meridian in Mississippi. I completed my service in February of 2018. I was thrilled to begin this new chapter of my life outside of the military.

However, I did not account for the shock of returning to a civilian lifestyle. Throughout my time in the Marine Corps, I adopted a high-intensity mindset needed to survive in such stringent environments. The transition from a service member to a citizen was disruptive to my mental health and overall wellbeing. When I left to serve, I had close relationships with my family, friends, a sense of a permanent home and safety that I needed to leave behind in active duty. When I returned after years of nomadic travel in foreign territories, I realized that the friendships and relationships I once had shifted along with how I interact with the world around me. Without the proper support, therapy, and resources, veterans may fall into solitary, dark spaces making them susceptible to mental illness. Bouts of depression may evolve into suicidal thoughts, such that an average of 22 veterans commit suicide on a daily basis, or once every 65 minutes, in the United States. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, deployed veterans have a 41% higher suicide risk compared to the general U.S. population and non-deployed veterans have a 61% higher risk.

Veterans’ Day, November 11, 2021, allows the opportunity to discuss a rampant issue within the veteran community. PhoenixTeam’s Veteran Employee Resource Group is sponsoring the 22-Day Push-Up Challenge where team members are encouraged to do 22 push-ups every day for 22 days in remembrance of the service members lost to suicide. Since September 11, 2001, over 30,000 veterans have died by suicide. Substance abuse disorders and untreated mental health conditions have strong correlations to suicide. These afflictions are often triggered by stress from military service, financial, legal, or relationship hardships. With proper care and resources, veteran suicide is preventable. Let’s make the effort to combat it. These efforts include reaching out to veterans in your circle, making a donation to non-profit organizations such as Stop Soldier Suicide, or volunteering with the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Call 1-800-273-8255, text 838255, or visit https://www.veteranscrisisline.net/get-help/chat to connect with a Veteran Crisis Line Responder.