Andy Marshall, Commander

Look out for each other

Those who have served in war know that it never leaves us. As a combat-wounded Vietnam veteran, I know all too well the range of emotions that veterans of Afghanistan have been feeling these past few months and how those emotions can negatively affect their sense of well-being.

The anger, hurt and sadness veterans of that war and other conflicts are experiencing can be overwhelming. Pair these complex and divergent emotions with more than 20 months of personal, social and societal difficulties brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, and an alarming potential for countless mental health crises exists.

But I want every veteran to know this: You matter. Your service matters. Your sacrifice matters.

Every time I learn of a veteran dying by suicide, it hurts my heart knowing someone’s demons got the better of them. It feels like a 7,000-mile sniper shot from our enemies. We beg anyone who is suffering not to let the enemy take another one of us, especially during the coming holiday season.

If you need help, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with asking for it. While I know it takes tremendous strength to do so, I also know you possess the strength to seek help. If you’re experiencing a mental health issue—including moral injury—and find yourself in need of attention, we urge you to call the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255. This free, confidential resource is available 24/7 and can connect at-risk veterans to services they need and have earned. You don’t even need to be a veteran to call. Family and friends of veterans in need are encouraged to call as well, and doing so could very well save a life.

As an organization of veterans serving veterans for more than 100 years, we also know that we are some of the best resources available to our fellow veterans. Our shared connections are invaluable, and it’s up to all of us to reach out to help each other process our emotions. I have no doubt many of you have already done so, but as we approach the holidays, I implore you to make that effort once again. You never know who you may save or what family you may save from unfathomable heartbreak.

Taking care of each other is what we do. It’s in our blood. And it’s why I’m so incredibly honored and proud to lead this organization filled with our nation’s finest servants and advocates.

Thank you all for everything you do for each other and your fellow veterans. I truly hope each and every one of you has a wonderful and blessed holiday season filled with joyous memories alongside your families and friends. But most of all, I truly hope that each of you remembers, again, these unyielding truths: You matter. Your service matters. Your sacrifice matters.

 

If you want to find out more about the National Commander, you can find his biography here.