“Who am I supposed to be?”
This was what rolled around in my mind in the days and weeks following my husband’s suicide. Looking back, I can see how when everything you thought to be true is taken away it seems only right you have an overshadowing need to question everything. Largely yourself.
As time has passed the question shifted to “Who do I want to be?”
Because when it comes to our own personal life path, we all get a choice.
We currently live in a world that tends to focus on more bad than good. Everywhere we turn there is no escaping negativity, judgement and at times a feeling of overall doom. To my veterans, I can only imagine you feel this more than ever with the current state of our nation’s response to work in countries overseas, our country’s patriotism or lack thereof and, perhaps more importantly, you question your personal service to our flag.
Maybe, you too, hear yourself saying, “Who am I supposed to be?”
Born to a military father and having married into the military, my heart is wrapped in the fabric of our flag. However, not all of you came to the love of uniform and country by blood. Perhaps it was a hope to travel the world, you wanted an education and a skill set or it was for steady pay and health benefits. None of these answers are wrong – they are all valid reasons to serve. Regardless of the reason to serve in uniform, it means you chose to give some of yourself and this includes your family by extension.
Years of war, we now see many of you serving your entire career post 9/11 where years of hardship, turmoil, and uncertainty have charged a large bounty. For military families, many of us now watch war from the home front.
Upon your return, we too suffer in silence while we watch you struggle with emotions.
The headaches keep you from focusing too long and you struggle to carry a conversation. Constantly hushing kids or dogs to keep the noise input low while we lower the blinds to protect your sensitive eyes. We clean up your glasses when you drink too much, throw away your spit cans and empty the ashtray as we tiptoe out of the bedroom in hopes the sleep you’ve finally found stays awhile.
We secretly drive around town looking for you when you don’t return home at night too embarrassed to tell family or friends. Over time we begin to jump less when you yell and we become better equipped at holding our tears when you look in our direction but don’t actually see us. All the while, we listen closely to friends hoping to hear them echo similar sentiments and not wanting to feel alone but the silence is deafening. While on deployments, you never shared your missions and yet we felt your efforts to keep us safe. Now home we too work discreetly to protect you within the same walls of our house.
In some twist of dark irony, our views of destruction mirror each other. You see quick bloody details of death, we see slow agonizing deterioration. Each haunting from their own lens.
Current events notwithstanding, all is not forgotten. We sought revenge on an enemy that attacked our country, we have saved innocent bystanders, and we are still a free nation because of you. Your service changed the world, kept our nation and others free in return. This matters.
Of all the reasons for serving the flag, there is one that lies in all of you. You were all born with the heart of a warrior. The years have taken their toll on you physically, mentally, and on your family. It is not just the fallen who have paid the price of freedom.
When asking yourself “Who do you want to be?” I hope you will take ownership and remember that even a warrior needs respite. Even warriors need someone to carry the load when they cannot. Now is the time to choose you. My hope is that you choose to speak up about a silent struggle and that you choose to lean on those that can hold you up. For many this will be your toughest battle yet.
To the civilians that have relished a lifetime of freedom under our stars and stripes, I ask, “Who do you want to be?” I hope you choose to respect the service of our men and women. I hope you recognize that the next war is on the home front and it’s only building in momentum. I hope you STEP UP and choose to not just believe but live this creed:
It is our nation’s duty to now serve those that served us.
It is our nation’s time to not just honor but protect them.
We must be present for them, day and night, as they were for us.
Now it is our watch.
To all the warfighters, stand down.
America carries you now.
Are you ready to Step Up to support veterans and their families?
The Veterans Day “CHAD” Hero WOD goes beyond the Veteran, CrossFit, and GORUCK communities — it is for everyone. Chad was the oldest of four siblings and a born overachiever. He was good at everything, but couldn’t reach out for help even to those of us who would do anything for him.
There are a lot of people who are struggling, too many lives are lost. Many more we can prevent. We believe that physical health leads to mental health and everybody needs somebody. So use “Chad” as inspiration. Say his name, honor his story, and live big by sharing your time with friends and those you love. Tomorrow is never promised.
Sign up here to join us: https://chad1000x.com/
– Sara Wilkinson
About the Author:
Sara Wilkinson is the Gold Star wife of Navy SEAL Chad Wilkinson – who served honorably for 21 years before taking his life on October 29, 2018 due to the effects of numerous deployments, several TBIs, blast wave injuries and PTSD. Sara has opened up about her and Chad’s story with the goal of bringing awareness to the struggles that lead to veteran suicide and, ultimately, to change the number of suicides. GORUCK is proud to be a part of Sara’s team to present the 2nd annual Veterans Day CHAD 1000x workout this year and every year to come.