This is the type of phone call you never want to receive…”I’ve got some bad news for you.” Oh shit, those never are the first words you want to hear out of an old SF friend’s mouth when you get a call early on a weekend morning.
My buddy “S.” was a friend from some of my earliest days in the Special Forces. We went through training together and have been good friends for over 30 years, despite moving on to different SF groups, his going “behind the fence” for a spell and then moving on to be a team sergeant before finally retiring from the Army and going to work at a federal agency.
We speak more frequently now, in the last few years, than in the decade or so prior, probably because as time goes on, our numbers get fewer. But in truth, we don’t speak as often as I’d like. The same BS excuses that I’ve always used…” work, family, etc,” take up so much time, that there never is the time we’d like. Well, maybe it is time for that to change. Actually “maybe” is the wrong word to use. It IS time for that to change.
When “S” called me, I assumed it was to catch up just after the New Year. We had exchanged texts during Christmas and New Years but we hadn’t spoken since just before Thanksgiving. I answered the phone in a good mood, happy to hear from him. That’s when the bombshell dropped. A very good mutual friend of ours, “B,” had committed suicide the night before. I was shocked.
I’d known “B” even longer. We’d been “SF babies” who went through Phase I of the SFQC together many, many moons ago. We eventually ended up in 7th SFG and were both in Panama but he was in a different company. We all knew the same people and later we kept in touch via Facebook as many people do in this day and age. About a year or so ago, we were both concerned with security at our children’s schools. He was going to do a security assessment at his son’s school; I sent him the checklist we used when I was doing private security work.
A while ago, I saw that he was facing a cancer crisis but was under the impression he was doing well, and even got the green light to return to work, doing some training for the government. We all assumed he was getting healthy and in a good frame of mind. Obviously, he wasn’t. I heard the details of his passing in the phone call I received and was shocked. I had the same impression that I heard when other 7th SF guys I knew committed suicide. I would have never thought he’d be one of those. Which is why depression is such a bitch.
No two people are the same. And the circumstances that surround why some people take their own lives and others do not are also different. Some may be suffering from trauma, or chronic pain, illness, substance abuse, isolation or a combination of many of those. But the one thing common in every case? Silence.
Silence is the killer among us that sits over our shoulders and robs us of our futures, our present, and our lives. Silence breeds isolation and shame. We didn’t discuss our problems. Because we didn’t have any. Our favorite saying back then was “take your f***ing skirt off and get back to work.” But that attitude is wrong. And it has to be changed.
Silence won’t make problems go away, it only prevents problems from getting solved. The hardest thing in the world for an SF guy, or anyone in special operations, to do is to ask for help. I’d rather have a root canal than ask anyone for help. But that too has to change.
There is no shame in asking for help, we are a self-supporting brotherhood and anyone in the Regiment will drop whatever they’re doing to help a brother in need, even if it is just to listen over the phone and lend a sympathetic ear. You’re never alone, we’re all only too willing to help. But we have to get rid of the silence.
There’s nothing we can’t do together. The Regiment will never leave a brother behind, but we have to be aware if you or anyone else is in need of help. If you’re feeling depressed reach out to a brother: he won’t let you down. We’ve all been through the toughest things the world can throw at us. And there isn’t anything that we can’t work through. But first, let’s kill the silence.
Rest easy brother, you’ll be missed.
If you’re having suicidal thoughts, call the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1 to speak to a trained professional or text to 838255.