Nobody Seems to Have the Answer by Pete Claussen OHS '59
Nobody Seems to Have the Answer
I awoke this morning to the news of yet another suicide. A celebrity of course, why else would it have made the news. This was Anthony Bourdain. I never knew him directly nor did Nancy. But since she is a Chef, she and I knew well of him and his talents. He was only 61 and he left a young daughter an orphan. He was rich, well known, successful and still, for some reason, he did not have the faith in himself to go on. We also hear about our Vets killing themselves at the rate of more than 20 a day. As far as I am concerned, any suicide is a waste of a human life. Where are the answers? We have to find more ways to save lives!
For years I have fought PTSD. I wasn’t directly involved in much face-to-face combat, although I did participate in or led over 40 recon patrols. But my Army artillery battalion was a front line combat unit attached to the 3d Marine Division near the DMZ. I was in Personnel in the Headquarters & Headquarters Battery of the battalion. But being attached to the Marines meant that we had a sector of our perimeter that we had to patrol. Being previously Infantry trained, they gave me many patrols. We entered the field 1,000 strong. I was number 14 when I joined the unit. After that I met and knew each of the remaining members of our unit. Ten months after hitting the beach in Vietnam, we had experienced over 35% casualties with over 200 dead. My office job consisted of paying our troops, keeping their records, transporting their records when they were wounded or killed and sometimes transporting their bodies onto and off of the planes when I had to hand carry their records from the DMZ down to Da Nang.
After I got home I tried to put it all out of my mind and thought I pretty much had accomplished just that. Twelve years later it all caught up with me. The green leaf bags in my front yard turned into body bags and I walked off into the bowels of Houston. I was “missing” for almost three months. My wife reported me missing and I was never found by the police.
A fellow Vet found me in the gutter, took me to his home, with his family there, cleaned me up, counseled me, took me to a shrink, got me on my feet, got my head on better and weeks later dropped me off in front of my house with the words, “Don’t forget; if you’re having a bad day, put it together and look forward to a better day tomorrow. Don’t forget. Tomorrow will be a better day and if it isn’t you make it a better day. Take pride in yourself. You’re worth it!”
With that he drove away. I never saw him again. After that I never forgot a Marine saying – “Pain is temporary, PRIDE is forever!” When I was teaching, that saying was always on the blackboard the first day of class.
When I saw my students having bad times, I would always try to deliver that message about tomorrows and if need be would get them to the schools shrink. I try to do that to fellow vets when I’m at the VA Hospital.
Having been in the depths of mental despair, having had daily thoughts of suicide being a better way, I was lucky to have had my Vet Angel find me. I’ve continued for years with counseling. I don’t hide in the bottom of a bottle any more. (Some of you experienced some of that during my last reunion. For that I hope those of you that were directly affected by my actions will find some forgiveness.)
As all of us have discovered by this time in our lives, the aging process isn’t fair, it isn’t all Golden, and life still surprises us with the good and the bad. But, please, if any of you can’t handle life and it‘s surprises any more, SCREAM for help. Talk to somebody, anybody. Go get Help! Ending your own life is not a solution. I certainly am no medical or mental professional, but I do have a lot of experience with not believing in myselfor in my own self worth. My Bride, my doctors have made me see that I need to believe in my own self worth and I can contribute. Please, help yourselves, your families, your friends, by letting them know how much they all mean to you and your life. I hope this has helped someonePlease, no more wasted lives. I once saw a very elderly woman interviewed and the reporter asked if there was anything to which she thought contributed to her long life. Very simply she said, “When I wake up I know that I can be Happy or Sad. I always choose Happy!”
So, always choose happy! Tell all you know to do the same thing.
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