+
Family

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.

All illustrations are provided by Soosh and used with permission.

I have plenty of space.

This article originally appeared on 04.09.16


It's hard to truly describe the amazing bond between dads and their daughters.

Being a dad is an amazing job no matter the gender of the tiny humans we're raising. But there's something unique about the bond between fathers and daughters.

Most dads know what it's like to struggle with braiding hair, but we also know that bonding time provides immense value to our daughters. In fact, studies have shown that women with actively involved fathers are more confident and more successful in school and business.

Keep ReadingShow less
Identity

This blind chef wore a body cam to show how she prepares dazzling dishes.

How do blind people cook? This "Masterchef" winner leans into her senses.

Image pulled from YouTube video.

Christine Ha competes on "Masterchef."

This article originally appeared on 05.26.17


There is one question chef Christine Ha fields more than any other.

But it's got nothing to do with being a "Masterchef" champion, New York Times bestselling author, and acclaimed TV host and cooking instructor.

The question: "How do you cook while blind?"

Keep ReadingShow less
The Prince Charles Cinema/Youtube

Brendan Fraser dressed as Rick O'Connell.

Brendan Fraser might be making the greatest career comeback ever, racking up accolades and award nominations for his dramatic, transformative role in “The Whale." But the OG Fraser fans (the ones who watch “Doom Patrol” solely to hear his voice and proudly pronounce his last name as Fray-zure, for this is the proper pronunciation) have known of his remarkable talent since the 90s, when he embodied the ultimate charming, dashing—and slightly goofball—Hollywood action lead.

Let us not forget his arguably most well known and beloved 90s character—Rick O’Connell from the “Mummy” franchise. Between his quippy one-liners, Indiana Jones-like adventuring skills and fabulous hair, what’s not to like?

During a double feature of “The Mummy” and “The Mummy Returns” in London, moviegoers got the ultimate surprise when who should walk in but Brendan Fraser himself, completely decked out in Rick O’Connell attire. The brown leather jacket. The scarf. Everything.

Keep ReadingShow less

Gordon Ramsay at play... work.

This article originally appeared on 04.22.15


Gordon Ramsay is not exactly known for being nice.

Or patient.

Or nurturing.

On his competition show "Hell's Kitchen," he belittles cooks who can't keep up. If people come to him with their problems, he berates them. If someone is struggling to get something right in the kitchen, he curses them out.

Keep ReadingShow less

This article originally appeared on 01.27.20


From 1940 to 1945, an estimated 1.3 million people were deported to Auschwitz, the largest complex of Nazi concentration camps. More than four out of five of those people—at least 1.1 million people—were murdered there.

On January 27, 1945, Soviet forces liberated the final prisoners from these camps—7,000 people, most of whom were sick or dying. Those of us with a decent public education are familiar with at least a few names of Nazi extermination facilities—Auschwitz, Dachau, Bergen-Belsen—but these are merely a few of the thousands (yes, thousands) of concentration camps, sub camps, and ghettos spread across Europe where Jews and other targets of Hitler's regime were persecuted, tortured, and killed by the millions.

Keep ReadingShow less
Health

What I realized about feminism after my male friend was disgusted by tampons at a party.

"After all these years, my friend has probably forgotten, but I never have."

Photo by Josefin on Unsplash

It’s okay men. You don’t have to be afraid.

This article originally appeared on 08.12.16


Years ago, a friend went to a party, and something bothered him enough to rant to me about it later.

And it bothered me that he was so incensed about it, but I couldn't put my finger on why. It seemed so petty for him to be upset, and even more so for me to be annoyed with him.

Recently, something reminded me of that scenario, and it made more sense. I'll explain.

Keep ReadingShow less