November 8, 2020
Good morning friends. I wish you all a happy and healthy day! It’s definitely been an interesting presidential election here in the United States. It’s both disheartening and ludicrous when you realize what some individuals will do to sway, manipulate and influence an outcome. I pray our new president will do all he can to uphold and support the values, liberties, economy and rights of our nation. I’m a bit skeptical based on his past history of 47 years in politics; not to mention the current agenda of the democratic party. Now, more than ever we, as Americans, need to work together in harmony to keep America great. Let’s hope law, order, equality and freedom is maintained. I’m going to give this topic another week to settle before I discuss it further. I have more important issues to discuss today.
We have two important dates coming this week. Tuesday, November 10th the United States Marine Corps will celebrate its birthday. The Corps was established on this date in 1775, during the Revolutionary War. The USMC will pay tribute to their 245 years of service to our great nation. They celebrate their inception every year. I have had the privilege of knowing and working with many Marines over the years. I also have several family members that served in the Corps. While I was assigned to LAPD SWAT, I spent many days training at Camp Pendleton (a Marine Corps base in Southern California). I attended an abbreviated version of Scout Sniper Training at this facility. It was a fabulous opportunity, but also an honor to be trained by an outstanding group of individuals. Loyalty, integrity and courage are a few words of description I use for these men and women. Happy Birthday and thank you for your service!
The second important date is Veterans Day, Wednesday, November 11th. This is a celebration of ALL our military veterans, living and deceased. It is a day to honor, salute and thank them for their service and maintaining our freedom. Their dedication and sacrifice preserve the rights, privileges and the security we enjoy each and every day. Be sure to thank them!
Veterans Day began as Armistice Day, after World War I ended. A cease fire to end conflict was agreed to on November 11, 1918. The Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, ending the war. President Woodrow Wilson declared November 11th as Armistice Day, to honor those who served and died in the war. It was later declared a National Holiday on June 4, 1926. On June 1,1954, Armistice Day officially became Veterans Day. This was done after World War II in order to honor all American veterans of all wars.
Veterans Day was one of my favorite days to celebrate with my Dad. He served in the US Army, during both World War II and the Korean War. I always enjoyed making November 11th all about him. Honoring him for his service to our nation was the least I could do. I did my best to ensure I could spend the morning, if not the entire day with him. Bear claw sweet rolls (his absolute favorite) and coffee always kicked off our morning celebration. I know he truly loved the attention I gave him, but it wasn’t because he ever believed he deserved it. He was honored to have served in the military, but rarely spoke about his duties overseas or during the war. He was part of the “Greatest Generation.” These individuals were raised during the Great Depression of the 1930’s. This was a period of global economic decline and social turmoil. It was an intense period in U.S. history, that had devastating effects on our nation. Our great country rose out of this crisis, only to be thrown into another world war. The men and women of this generation were the primary participants of World War II. They endured great hardships, but ultimately triumphed over the misfortune and sadness that had plagued these times. The courage, determination and tenacity they displayed to pull themselves up and achieve these successes truly earned them the moniker, “the Greatest Generation.”
Our veterans have endured trauma and adversity during the history of our nation. These men and women deserve so much more than they receive; not only in thanks and praise, but in monetary rewards and covered health care. Their health services should be the best our nation can offer, including all available physical and mental resources. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. Our military active duty suicide rate increased by 20% this year (2020), compared to same time during 2019. Officials believe the pandemic has added to the stress of an already strained force. The virus and quarantine continue to negatively impact mental health worldwide. A recent study indicated approximately 17 U.S. military veterans die by suicide every day; according to Veterans Affairs (VA) 2019 report. Conflicting reports put veteran suicides at 20 or 22 per day, after the VA altered its calculations and adjusted the new number.
How we examine these reports and the number of deaths by suicide is totally unacceptable. It’s taken many years for veteran suicides to finally take center stage on Capitol Hill. That occurred in March 2020, but was overshadowed by the pandemic, as was most of life. Many republican leaders pushed for various programs, like community outreach or funding other resources that better serve veterans. This issue goes beyond simple mental health issues. Pouring more money into the VA isn’t the answer, because many veterans use other medical institutions. Congress continues to slowly move forward with its measures to deal with suicide prevention. New ideas, increased funding and additional programs are needed.
The Veterans Administration and hospital services need to be re-organized, updated and energized. I remember my Dad going to the VA for health care needs. Each time he would spend nearly an entire day and not get the needed care he required. Luckily he had good medical insurance through his work. He opted to seek his own care after his frustration with the VA became detrimental to his health. Many veterans may not be as lucky to have good health care coverage outside of the VA. This needs to change. Our government (and you as Americans) should ensure our veterans are happy and secure with extensive medical plans before we give it to non-citizens for free. These men and women have earned it.
Law enforcement professionals suffer similar risks from mental health issues and suicide. A 2019 study highlighted law enforcement as the highest at risk for suicide than any other profession. The study stated police suicides were more than double that of officers killed in the line of duty. New York, California, Texas and Florida suffer the highest number of officer suicides. I hope the chaos this year, in many states and cities, do not increase this trend throughout our nation. These are sad and tragic times for many individuals, but especially law enforcement and military personnel.
During my career I have witnessed the effects of suicide; within law enforcement, the military and in our communities. I’ve worked at the same station as officers that succumbed and took their own lives. I have heard stories of countless others. The individuals I’ve seen or known, typically outwardly appear like most of the others around them. Sadly, no one really knows what struggles are occurring inwardly. There have been several that have touched me personally. One particular suicide was extremely tragic and difficult. This still haunts me today. I worked closely with this officer early in my career. We were assigned to the same crime task force in the mid 1980’s. We became good friends and often talked about personal struggles, relationships and life. He often spoke cryptically, but that soon just became part of his persona. About ten years, and several work assignments later, I unintentionally run into him coming out of a police station in the valley. I’m walking in the back door as he’s walking out; surprise! We’re excited to see each other and quickly exchange out current situations. We both have daughters and have struggled with lasting relationship issues. He has never considered himself a “good looking” guy and continues to suffer from low self-esteem. I have always told him what a great man he is and continue to convey that message.
Our conversation moves quickly as we both have work pulling us in different directions. I tell him we need to catch up on life and next week is open. He agrees and says he’ll call to set something up. The following week passes quickly. We all know how our busy lives can take us down our own path very fast. It’s been over a week and I tell myself I need to reach out to him. The day in roll call briefing begins like many others. Then the news is read, as sergeant in the valley has taken his own life. It’s my friend. I can’t believe my ears. I ask myself, “How can this be true? What did I miss in our conversation? What did he tell me that I should have known he was heading down this path?” I doubt I will ever fully understand or know what happened. I’ve talked with many friends and discussed it during my therapy. I think of the struggles he has dealt with for many years. I understand his pain, but not the outcome. The difficult part to this puzzle, there are times we can never really know what others are thinking. We may know some of their struggles, but not comprehend what these issues are doing in their own mind.
The trauma experienced by the men and women of our military and law enforcement is real and horrific. Many people will never know or understand what these experiences are or how they negatively impact lives. You cannot fully comprehend the magnitude of these incidents unless you have participated or witnessed them first hand. Over the course of my career with the LAPD I have seen countless tragic and horrific scenes of violence, death and destruction. There have been times I have attempted to tear them from my memory. That isn’t possible. These images and incidents often haunt my life and dreams. It took many years for me to realize that my mental health was compromised. Fortunately, I had support along my path and good medical coverage. I am happy suicide was never an option for me.
Health care, especially mental health, for our veterans and law enforcement personnel should be of the upmost importance. This isn’t a topic for republicans or democrats to argue or posture over to bolster their own agenda. Elected politicians and government law makers work for us. Let’s ensure we push them to provide the proper care and assistance our veterans and law enforcement professionals require and deserve. This should be at the top of their agenda; before they give more free handouts to non-citizens, illegals or other countries. Our own men and women should be our top priority. None of these deaths should require a debate between political leadership. These are Americans who have sacrificed their lives, to protect us and preserve our freedom. The men and women of the military and law enforcement deserve so much more, and then some more after that! They are entitled to better health care, including physical and mental health services. Outreach and community programs should be instituted to allow them greater access to medical care and associated resources. Services to assist them in dealing with trauma, addictions, housing, jobs and more is needed. Let’s focus our efforts, not for our own self- indulgent desires, but for a boost to halt the floundering of so many of our hero’s. It’s past time for us to show our kindness and thanks to those that have served and protected us.
All gave some and some gave all to ensure our freedom and secure way of life. Let’s never forget their sacrifice or courage. We owe them all a debt of gratitude and honor.
Happy Birthday Marines and Happy Veterans Day to all our vets!!!
Please tune in and join me again next Sunday for more! The healthy life puzzle is always in rotation. Let’s be healthy and strong mentally, physically and spiritually!
Thanks for your love and support! Embrace Life! Be sure to get outside and enjoy nature!