Who Ya Gonna Call?
If you are one of those incredibly dedicated souls who feels duty-bound to serve something or someone bigger than just yourself, to help and protect others – often at the risk of your own personal safety, and sometimes your own life (not to mention the sacrifices you ask of your family…), where do you turn in times of need? Who is your protector, the one who looks out for you and your family?
Well, who are we talking about here? There are a lot of folks who serve society and their fellow Americans, as well as those in need around the world. It is particularly easy to point at the military and veterans, which I was reminded of because I attended the Armed Forces Day Observance ceremonies at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery again this year (this time with Freedom).
However, even though last weekend’s celebrations prompted me to think about this subject, I’m not talking about just our military and veterans. There are many, many more people who faithfully serve, help and protect us. Besides the military and our veterans (including national intelligence operations), there are law enforcement officers and agents, firefighters, and emergency medical services (including field EMS personnel like EMT’s and paramedics, and emergency room nurses, doctors, and support staff).
Since almost all of these are employed by one sort of government organization or another, should they turn to the government for help and support? While there are some organizations out there that do a good job of supporting their current and former employees…there are many others that do not. Just look at the news about the Veterans Administration debacles over the last several decades to see what I’m talking about. I have personal experience (as do a lot of veterans) just how dysfunctional (or non-functional) that organization is.
Because of the stress and dangers of these occupations, each of these groups has a “recognition” day or week to thank those who are serving (or who have served), and most have a “memorial” day or week to honor those who gave their lives in the service of others. While many Americans know about Memorial Day, a lot of these days or weeks are only known to those who serve in that specific capacity. They are:
US Military and Veterans:
Armed Forces Day – third Saturday of May
Veterans Day – Nov 11
Memorial Day – last Monday in May
National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day – Jan 9
Peace Officers Memorial Day – May 15
International Firefighter’s Day – May 4th
Fallen Firefighters Memorial Weekend – first weekend in Oct
Emergency Medical Services:
Emergency Nurses Week – second week of October
National EMS Week – third week of May
Although the government (i.e., Congress) recognizes each of these groups of dedicated public servants (usually because a concerned group lobbied Congress to create those days), a lot of these folks, or worse yet, their families, still end up having to fend for themselves.
Luckily – or more accurately, because of the type and caliber of those people who step up to serve in these capacities – they all tend to band together in a brother/sisterhood to help not only the public, but each other and their families.
You can’t count on government doing it for you, but you can sure count on your brothers and sisters to be there. Each and every one of these groups has a fraternal organization dedicated to remembering those serving and those fallen, as well as helping their brothers or sisters in need…and importantly…their families and/or survivors.
I’ve talked about a couple of these organizations before. Obviously, K9s for Warriors is a great organization that not only seeks to stop veteran suicides (22 a day, which averages out to 1 veteran killing themselves every 65 minutes, 24 hours a day, every single day) by pairing them with a service dog, but also saves many of those dogs, a lot of whom are rescue dogs from high-kill shelters.
The other organization is Veterans 360, which is designed to identify, engage, educate, and support post 911 veterans, again, with the goal to stop suicides. What is unique about Vets360 in my eyes is two things. First, it was founded, and is still lead, by a good friend of mine, Rick Collins. Rick is not an American veteran who is taking care of his brothers and sisters…in fact, he is a Brit who came to the United States, and was heartbroken by the tragedy of those (mostly preventable) deaths…and was compelled to do something about it.
Secondly, after working with folks with Post Traumatic Stress disorder (PTS(D)), he found out something that in hindsight is painfully obvious. In his words, “PTS will hit most people at some time in their lives whether they realize it or not. It is NOT unique to veterans and it is certainly not a reason to treat a veteran any different than we would a fire fighter or an ER nurse.” It is not just a veteran issue, it is a human issue. If anyone has been in a serious car accident, has been a victim of domestic violence, is in one of the jobs listed above, or in any significant traumatic event, etc., etc…, they could very well have or be affected by PTS.
Vets360 then took a turn. Realizing the breadth and depth of PTS in America, they decided to begin the challenge to “de-stigmatize” PTS, and again, in Rick’s words, help society realize that “PTS is a normal reaction to an abnormal situation.” That’s when Carry the Challenge was born. This challenge will not only be used to further the mission of de-stigmatizing PTS, but is fully inclusive of military and veterans, first responders (law enforcement and firefighters), emergency medical services (EMS field personnel, and ER nurses, doctors and staff), and any others in our society affected by PTS.
It is already going international, and they hope that one day they will be able to include all those different services and organizations that are involved in one way or another with dealing with or providing services to those affected by PTS in the Challenge.
Who ya gonna call? Each other. Stand together as brothers and sisters – you and all those who step forward to support you are really the only ones you can truly count on.