Two days before the Memorial Day weekend, the U.S. Army sent a call-out to veterans on Twitter asking them how their time serving in the military impacted their lives.
The tweet was well-intended, apparently aimed at celebrating the sacrifices service members make for the country.
Some people responded with stories of growth, saying their time in the military “restored my self confidence and pride within,” and allowed them to serve with the “bravest, most self-sacrificial and humblest men and women” they’ve ever met.
But many responded with heartbreaking stories, detailing the darker side of deployment and war on veterans and their families and friends. The responses shed light on the pain that lingers after service members return home.
According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, about 30% of Vietnam veterans, 12% of Gulf War veterans and 11% to 20% of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom veterans are living with post-traumatic stress disorder.
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Suicide also impacts veterans at disproportionate rates: More than 6,000 veterans died by suicide between 2008 to 2016. Between 2013 and 2014, an average of 20 veterans died by suicide each day.
Many people thanked service members and their loved ones for the sacrifices they made and expressed sadness over the traumas they faced.
After receiving nearly 9,000 replies, the Army issued a follow-up message to those who shared their stories. The military branch thanked everyone for taking their time to reply and assured them that their “stories are real, they matter, and they may help others in similar situations.”
“As we honor those who paid the ultimate sacrifice this weekend by remembering their service, we are also mindful of the fact that we have to take care of those who came back home with scars we can’t see,” the tweet read.
If you or someone you know needs help, call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also text HOME to 741-741 for free, 24-hour support from the Crisis Text Line. Outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of resources.