During President Obama’s CNN town hall at Fort Lee on Tuesday night, the Commander-In-Chief was faced with an emotional question. The wife of a veteran who suffered from PTSD, which drove him to commit suicide, made a heart-wrenching plea to the president.
Jake Tapper introduced her as Amanda Souza, a Gold Star wife and a Blue Star mom. He explained that “her husband was a 25-year-veteran who suffered from post-traumatic stress and committed suicide last year. She created a foundation and is honored to help other veterans, servicemen and women and their families improve their lives. Her son is an active duty Marine.”
Struggling to hold back her tears, Souza made her emotional plea:
Throughout my husband’s military career, he spent a lot of time overseas, many deployments. And very, very dangerous missions. Unfortunately on his last deployment, they were under enemy attack and not everyone made it.
The things that my husband had to go through, he had to live with when he came home. He was diagnosed with PTSD but, unfortunately, like many of servicemen and women, this was his career, this was his livelihood and he was too scared to go get help because he did not want to risk being labeled as unstable or weak. Unfortunately he did not get the help that he needed. He had a family to support and he ended up joining the ranks of the on-average 22 vets a day who commit suicide.
My question to you is, how can we ensure that our military men and women understand that it is okay to get the help that they need? And that they are not going to risk their careers and be labeled. How can we enforce and ensure that, especially my son’s generation that’s coming into the military as careers, that they understand that it’s okay to get the help that they need. How can we change the stereotype?
President Obama responded tenderly to her heartbreaking appeal, explaining that the approach to helping veterans suffering from PTSD is twofold. First, the stigma must be removed so that veterans can ask for help without the fear that they will lose the careers they have spent the lives building. We must let them know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that there is nothing wrong with asking for help. Second, said the president, we must make absolutely sure that the mental health services these veterans need are available.
Featured image via video screen capture