PTSD kills more than 25 veterans a day. This new memorial is for them.

Jeremy Coombs died tragically at the age of 28.

Jeremy did two tours in Iraq, as an Army infantryman in 2005 and then as a helicopter repairman in 2007, and was later stationed in Honduras in 2009. Over the course of his military career, he received multiple campaign stars and medals, including three Army commendation medals for acts of valor.

Jeremy was a hero. But that fact alone was not enough to free him from the darkness that followed him home from the service. He took to alcohol to drown out the demons of post-traumatic stress disorder and kept drinking until his kidneys and liver failed.


Jeremy didn't die in the line of duty. But he is still a casualty of war.


Jeremy Coombs in 2006. Photo provided by Amy Blaisdell, used with permission.

According to the Department of Veteran Affairs, 22 veterans kill themselves every day.

And yet, the stories of people like Jeremy are often still ignored.

Suicide is the 10th-leading cause of death in the United States, and veterans are more than twice as likely as other citizens to die from self-inflicted harm. But society in general isn't great at talking about suicide, and that stigma can be even more difficult in a military atmosphere where weakness is traditionally shunned.

"The military families who lost their loved one under these circumstances can be made to feel as though their loved one's death didn't matter as much or that they weren't actually true heroes," said Jeremy's younger sister, Amy Blaisdell.

She remembered a time when her parents were invited on a Gold Star military cruise for surviving family members — only to be unceremoniously disinvited at the last minute because their son did not die "in service to the nation," according to the military's definition.

Photo by SrA Daniel Hughes/Department of Defense/Wikimedia Commons.

But now, thanks to a planned PTSD monument, veterans like Jeremy will finally get the recognition they deserve for the sacrifices they made on and off the battlefield.

Created by K9s for Veteran Warriors, a support group that provides service dogs to aid veterans who are struggling with PTSD, the new Forgotten Warrior Memorial Wall at Channahon State Park in Illinois will commemorate the struggles of those who bravely served their nation and died in the fight against PTSD.

“This one-of-a-kind memorial will provide a place for family members, other veterans, and the public to honor those service men and women whose injuries, while perhaps not physically apparent, were no less devastating,” Channahon Mayor Missey Moorman Schumacher said in a press release.

The $80,000 project is scheduled to open to the public in November 2016. Families can pay tribute to their loved ones with personalized memorial bricks, which provide structural and financial support for the monument.

An artist rendering of the Forgotten Warrior Memorial Wall, via Manny du Mont/YouTube.

Blaisdell believes the monument will make a big difference for veterans dealing with PTSD — and for families like hers who are still hurting.

"The PTSD memorial brings awareness to exactly how many people in the military struggle so much that they take their own lives," she said. "Jeremy has three children. I never want them to think that his death is any less important because he suffered from a mental illness. I want them to know that he is still a hero and sacrificed so much for them and his country."

Nena Boling-Smith, an Air Force veteran and licensed social worker who specializes in helping those who are not eligible for VA assistance, agrees. "Anything that creates or expands the discussion of mental health and the effects of suicide on service members and families is good," she said. "The military has a long way to go when it comes to decreasing mental health stigma, and families coming together to do that is a great start."

Photo by Staff Sergeant Charity Barrett/U.S. Air Force/Wikimedia Commons.

By acknowledging these internal struggles, the Forgotten Warrior Memorial Wall can help families heal from the past — and pave the way for better veteran mental health care in the future.

"Military members are our relatives, our neighbors, our family and we have to take a community approach and responsibility to not only prevent suicide, but create access to treatment and understanding," Boling-Smith said. "Veterans are unique in their background, history, and reason for joining the military."

Mental health in general is still a complicated issue. And a monument alone won't change that.

But by bringing visibility to hidden struggles, we can start a conversation and make it easier for people to ask for help — and sometimes, that's a crucial step that can make all the difference.

Courtesy of Verizon
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If someone were to say "video games" to you, what are the first words that come to mind? Whatever words you thought of (fun, exciting, etc.), we're willing to guess "healthy" or "mental health tool" didn't pop into your mind.

And yet… it turns out they are. Especially for Veterans.

How? Well, for one thing, video games — and virtual reality more generally — are also more accessible and less stigmatized to veterans than mental health treatment. In fact, some psychiatrists are using virtual reality systems for this reason to treat PTSD.

Secondly, video games allow people to socialize in new ways with people who share common interests and goals. And for Veterans, many of whom leave the military feeling isolated or lonely after they lose the daily camaraderie of their regiment, that socialization is critical to their mental health. It gives them a virtual group of friends to talk with, connect to, and relate to through shared goals and interests.

In addition, according to a 2018 study, since many video games simulate real-life situations they encountered during their service, it makes socialization easier since they can relate to and find common ground with other gamers while playing.

This can help ease symptoms of depression, anxiety, and even PTSD in Veterans, which affects 20% of the Veterans who have served since 9/11.

Watch here as Verizon dives into the stories of three Veteran gamers to learn how video games helped them build community, deal with trauma and have some fun.

Band of Gamers www.youtube.com

Video games have been especially beneficial to Veterans since the beginning of the pandemic when all of us — Veterans included — have been even more isolated than ever before.

And that's why Verizon launched a challenge last year, which saw $30,000 donated to four military charities.

And this year, they're going even bigger by launching a new World of Warships charity tournament in partnership with Wargaming and Wounded Warrior Project called "Verizon Warrior Series." During the tournament, gamers will be able to interact with the game's iconic ships in new and exciting ways, all while giving back.

Together with these nonprofits, the tournament will welcome teams all across the nation in order to raise money for military charities helping Veterans in need. There will be a $100,000 prize pool donated to these charities, as well as donation drives for injured Veterans at every match during the tournament to raise extra funds.

Verizon is also providing special discounts to Those Who Serve communities, including military and first responders, and they're offering a $75 in-game content military promo for World of Warships.

Tournament finals are scheduled for August 8, so be sure to tune in to the tournament and donate if you can in order to give back to Veterans in need.

Courtesy of Verizon

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