When I am sharing the mission of our organization, I often leave out the most important part, our why. This is such a hard story to share but someone once told me that one person’s heartache is another person’s hope. And this organization is my way of spreading that hope.
In January of 2016 our brother, Adam Tucker, became one of the 20 veterans that takes their life every day. Yes, you read that correctly. The VA estimates that every single day we lose 20 veterans to suicide.
I remember getting that call from your mom in the middle of the night. My heart was racing- I had never heard her cry before. In that moment, I couldn't think of words to say. My world was spinning, yet time stood still. When she asked me to hand the phone to my husband, your brother, I remember the sick feeling in my stomach. The one I feel now as I am writing this. There is no normal reaction to hearing that your brother had just taken his own life. The pain we have gone through in losing you is something no one should ever have to experience. Death is painful, losing someone to suicide is torture.
While I knew you, I never knew the pain you were in. Everyone says they wish they told you more often how much they cared for you, I do too. I remember the good times, but they are always shadowed by the bad. I wanted you to be here for our family, and I wanted to be there for yours. It has been almost 3 years since you left us and I still haven’t come to terms with the fact that you’re gone. Maybe I never will.
That is the reason I am standing here today. Not only to shine light on the struggles our veterans face, but desperately trying to figure out a way to change the path of those going through that struggle this very moment.
Sheepdog Support Co. recently received a grant to create an alternative transitional course for those leaving the service. We feel it is important to walk with our veterans on their new paths and be there for them to reach out if they find that they get lost along the way. The VA recently found that suicide rates among veterans were highest during the first several years after discharge. Even more alarming was their finding that a majority of veterans who took their life were never deployed. This is what has pushed our organization to focus more on mentorship and transitional programs and less on mental healthcare. Let me be clear, we aren’t saying that we don’t support mental healthcare. But when 14 of the 20 veterans a day don’t seek treatment for mental health issues, there needs to be another way for us to be there for our veterans. These types of programs are only useful to those who seek it, and the overwhelming majority, unfortunately, do not.