“I am falling apart by the seams. It seems the days here bleed into each other. I have to find the will to live. These walls are caving in. My despair wraps me in its web. I feel I’m sinking in. Throw me a lifesaver. Throw me a life worth living.”
John Wylie Needham, a decorated Iraq combat veteran wrote this on Facebook, according to an article on L.A. NOW.
He had returned from Iraq a changed man – before Iraq, he had been described as an “easygoing surfer.” When he came back from Iraq, after suffering an injury that required several surgeries and various medications, Needham seemed to be no longer easygoing. He was troubled, but perhaps nobody really understood how deeply wounded he was and how desperate and lonely he felt.
Needham was charged with the murder of his girlfriend, after she was found beaten to death in his condo. One and a half years later, his dead body was discovered in Pima, Arizona. At the time of the same article, authorities were still investigating the cause of his death.
What happened to John Needham and a lot of war veterans like him? It is quite possible that a lot of questions will go unanswered for a long time, maybe forever, but Needham’s story doesn’t seem to be very dissimilar from those of other veterans who couldn’t re-adjust to life here, once they returned from the war zone.
Veterans who have difficulties re-adjusting to civilian life tend to isolate, to live in the margins. Perhaps they use drugs or drink to ease the pain, or forget, or tune things out. They tend to keep at a distance from people they previously loved. They may go from one doctor to another, trying to figure out what can help them. Some never go to see any doctor, believing there is nothing anyone can do that can help them. A few may get help, but others may continue to feel disconnected, isolated, and different from other people. They may battle nightmares; they may have memories that torture them; they may feel guilty.
As a society, we can’t afford to lose these young men and women. We need to raise our awareness of their problems, and help them get the right kind of help. Above all, we shouldn’t avoid them, and accept their desire to be alone without questioning it. They need us even if they deny it.
Another form of casualty refers to fallen soldiers. An “Arizona Republic” article reported that Sgt. Elijah Tai Wah Wong was killed by an explosion of grenades and mortar rounds while serving in Iraq. He was among the 900 Arizona Army National Guardsmen deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan from this State. The National Guard armory in Coolidge, Arizona was renamed after Sgt. Elijah Wong, as he was one of a small group of soldiers who used to work at defusing unexploded weapons.
To him and all the other soldiers fallen in the line of duty, we offer our deepest appreciation for their work and dedication. Thank you all, and may your sacrifices contribute to long lasting peace for all humankind.