Never shall I fail my comrades. I will always keep myself mentally alert, physically strong, and morally straight, and I will shoulder more than my share of the task, whatever it may be, one hundred percent and then some. -3rd Stanza of The Ranger Creed
This might not be what anybody wants to hear, but it is something I have to say. I’m not saying this because I feel I am above this plague, but because I owe it to my brothers and sisters to speak my true feelings on the matter.
Instead of concentrating on the 22 veterans a day who commit suicide, our attention should be focused on a new mission. Why do we continue to highlight suicide? We can’t continue to feel victimized because the VA doesn’t have the answers. Have we not realized the issue gets worse the more we spotlight it? It’s given some individuals a terrible direction when they felt cornered, “I am feeling down… well, might as well kill myself since everyone else does it.” We give them the satisfaction of being a statistic.
Let’s remove the word “suicide” from our vocabulary. Our attention should be focused on a new mission: the warriors we have to our left and right. Let’s find a positive way to handle this; the last thing we need to do is continue to make it a path that is taken when guys get down. When you come to a road block, you find another way or you punch through it, you don’t just keep running into it. Simply put, the current strategy is failing us. PTSD is a legitimate issue that needs to be addressed, but not the way our community has decided to do it. Our epidemic is that we are told being a victim is acceptable. Well, sorry to tell you, but it’s not.
Do what you did in the military when things got hard: take a knee, face out and drink water. Stop, take a deep breath, evaluate your situation, and complete this mission called life. You don’t quit. You never quit. In uniform you didn’t have the option to quit, and if you did your squad leader kicked your ass. So don’t quit on us now. Ranger Up said it best: IT’S SELFISH! Some even say it’s cowardly. Don’t do it.
Part of this failing strategy can be blamed on a new group of assholes who cry wolf; they are clogging the airwaves and pulling focus away from the folks who need it. We are so sensitive to losing our brothers and sisters that now we have a knee jerk reaction to lend a hand only to find out they are just seeking attention. There is a special place for those assholes, who take advantage of our vigilance for their own narcissistic pleasure. They know we answer the call to arms, so now we become the fools. I’m tired of it.
At the same time, some of these people are on the brink and they don’t reach out because they don’t want to be put in the position of somebody thinking they cried wolf because they were talked out of it. I feel this dynamic is largely to blame for the failing anti-suicide movement. Take a look at the high speed studs who found a way to keep their demons behind them by always placing one foot in front of the other: Article 15 Clothing CEO Mat Best, Ranger Up CEO Nick Palmisano, UFC fighter Tim Kennedy, Blackside Concepts owner Marty Skovlund, author and fitness expert Leo Jenkins, Article 15’s CMO Jarred Taylor, and Straight Legless clothing founder Derek Wieda, among others.
These are all house hold names in our community now. I could easily name many more, but these are the guys who are in our faces every day. Not coincidentally, they are also some of the most combat experienced individuals you will ever meet. If you ask them, I can guarantee they won’t say it, but I know them personally and know they have had their battles too, but they don’t play the victim, they don’t lie down. These men are no different than you or I. They are just human beings pushing forward.
They maintain the same motivation and drive they had in the military. They have a mission and they complete it. Once that one is completed, they make a new mission. They drink and laugh, work hard and GRIND! This is nothing different then what they did in the service. This isn’t going to sit well with a lot of you. I know that and I don’t give a shit. I want this suicide epidemic to stop just like the rest of you. There is definitely a better way. Let’s laugh, let’s have a few drinks, lets hangout and just be together. Let’s do what we did in our units. There is a community of military individuals ready to hang out and do the same. You just have to reach out.
There are some hotlines and counselors out there that do great work. I am not saying don’t go get help. Just the opposite, if you need it go get it. It’s just like sick call: go get your help, but if you are looking for someone to hold your hand and walk to you the counselor, you are highly mistaken. Ultimately, you are responsible for your own health, so don’t expect anything different. There are no simple answers, all we can do is recognize what is and is not working. Let’s work together to remove the focus of suicide and bring back the idea of community and brotherhood.
If you willingly choose to be that statistic, then you have chosen to fail your comrades. Remember all those times when guys quit all around you in basic or selection? Keep that same mentality. Never Quit. Don’t fail yourself, and don’t fail us. One hundred percent, and then some.
Vince “Rocco” Vargas is a former US Army Ranger and combat veteran, and is currently the Chief Operations Officer of Article 15 Clothing. This article first appeared in The Havok Journal on 01MAY15.