Fiddler's Green is the happy land imagined by Cavalry Troopers and Sailors, where there is perpetual mirth, a fiddle that never stops playing and dancers who never tire. It is where our brothers find peace that may have eluded them in life.
Viet Nam Cavalry Troopers speak well of those who move on to Fiddler’s Green, knowing that all too soon, we may be joining them. But, when one chooses to travel there it is a shock and a sad time for all.
One such friend, a fellow Air Cavalry Trooper I never met in person, but knew by exchanging comments on a website for aging Viet Nam Veterans of the 7/17th Air Cavalry Squadron, recently made that choice, taking all by surprise.
Most shocking was his final post on another Veterans site,
“Do ya ever just get tired of living life in general???? Beginin' ta think what the fuck??? I've done all there is to do...Hard to come up with a reason to wakeup in the morning....would be nice to see
Grandpa and Grandma....also Lt. Fitzgerald, Cpt Powell and all the others.................................. Gary”
Before any could reach out or contact him, he was gone; he took his own life.
What drove him to this we may never know. Depression? Nightmares? Memories? Just tired of it all? We don’t know.
He was a big-hearted guy that thought of others more than him self. Once, someone was willing to give away an older 23-foot boat to anyone who wanted it. He was willing to drive over a thousand miles to retrieve the boat and tow it home to repair and fix up so others who visited would have a boat to cruise around in. He was talked out of that.
To most this will be soon forgotten, ignored or they will never hear about Gary. He is just another statistic in the ongoing compilation of numbers being used by sides in the battle over America’s involvement in the war against terrorists.
Suicides of Veterans has been making news of late, the Washington Post claiming just a few weeks ago that it is at Record Levels.
Just weeks later the New York Times tells us
“the suicide rate among 45-to-54-year-olds increased nearly 20 percent from 1999 to 2004, the latest year studied, far outpacing changes in nearly every other age group.”
The Times adds,
“Veterans are another vulnerable group… Those most affected are not returning from Iraq or Afghanistan, he said, but those who served in Vietnam or right after, when the draft ended and the all-volunteer force began.”
Of the ‘why’ of the increase since 1999, the Times quotes Dr. Eric C. Caine, co-director at the Center for the Study of Prevention of Suicide at the University of Rochester Medical Center saying, explaining why suicide in the middle years of life had not been extensively studied before,
“There’s a social-bias issue here. There is a national support system for those under 19, and those 65 and older, but not for people in between, even though ‘the bulk of the burden from suicide is in the middle years of life.’”
Myrna M. Weissman, the chief of the department in Clinical-Genetic Epidemiology at New York State Psychiatric Institute adds,
“One possible reason… [is] the growing pressures of modern life, like the changing shape of families and more frequent moves away from friends and relatives that have frayed social support networks.”
A Reuters article around the same time tells us,
“No matter where in the world they live, people who are young, single, female, poorly educated or mentally ill are at higher risk of suicide.”
Matthew Nock, Harvard University researcher writing in the British Journal of Psychiatry said,
“Our research suggests that suicidal thoughts and behaviors are more common than one might think, and also that key risk factors for these behaviors are quite consistent across many different countries around the world. Across every single country we saw there was a significant increase in suicidal thoughts during adolescence and young adulthood.”
Returning to the New York Times article, we are reminded,
“The lack of concrete research has given rise to all kinds of theories,” with Dr. Caine adding, “Without a ‘psychological autopsy’ into someone’s mental health, we’re kind of in the dark.”
Suicide isn’t a new phenomena, it’s been around since the dawn of time. The increase is an unknown, apparently, but being used to further agendas and sell newspapers and increase ratings of news programs. Perhaps that is adding to the increase by bombarding people with even more stories of helplessness, I don’t know.
I only know that I have lost another friend and a brother and gained another hole in my heart, wishing I could have said or done something to prevent his death.
Gary isn’t the first and I’m afraid he won’t be the last. Suicide is a very permanent solution often to a temporary problem. He is at peace now, but his family and those that cared about him are not, all wondering why and if they could have done better.
Maybe, just maybe, if we all interacted more with each other, used ATMs, online services and self serve facilities a bit less, we could relearn that we are on this earth together and we need each other.
Until we meet again, Gary.