“Any is Too Many!”
“Any is Too Many”
First I want to apologize for going “silent” for what seems like an eternity! This is a moment for me to talk a little about suicide; the numbers, the impact, and the importance of spreading awareness! Although any suicide is tragic and unnecessary, I am going to focus on our veteran suicides. My silence over the last couple months or so was the result of the suicide of a friend, former student, and Air National Guard member. This wasn’t my first go round dealing with the suicide of someone close, in fact, I have experienced several in my life and the course of my 28 year military career. During my recent cross-country bicycle ride, I was doing 20 push-ups twice a day to bring awareness to the approximately 20 veterans taking their lives every day. I am sure you have heard of and perhaps seen the “22-day challenge” on facebook and other social media platforms. I chose to do 20 push-ups as that was the current number being shared by the Department of Veteran’s Affairs. When my friend Justin recently took his life, I felt I needed to re-energize my effort to bring awareness to the fact that far more veterans take their lives each year than the “civilian” population. In order to be fair, I chose to do some research, and I discovered that, in reality, the number is actually closer to 17.5, still above “civilians.” The other thing I discovered is that this figure was published in 2018, but is based on data collected through 2016. We really don’t have an accurate number, but we do know that the veteran rate is still higher. My friend James Carter introduced me to the phrase “Any is too Many,” and I want that phrase to be what we use moving forward as this really sums it up! Thanks James! In addition, as I was doing my research, I came across an opinion piece that proclaimed that doing a “22 day challenge,” or anything like that had no impact on changing the veteran suicide rate. They further said all people do it for is to “get likes” on facebook. I seriously took exception to this. I say that the more people are reminded, the better the chances that we will save someone who is on the edge, thinking this is their only option. When you think about things that have happened recently like Hurricane Michael that hit Panama City and Mexico Beach Fl, or the flooding in Nebraska, Iowa and the Midwest. Because we don’t hear anything on the news, we tend to forget, but trust me, those areas are now, and will be for some time, struggling to recover, and this is why we have to remind everyone!
In my friend Justin’s case, although we knew he was going through a rough time, there weren’t the usual “signs.” Even his closest friends had no idea that he was thinking about suicide as the only solution to his problem. Sometimes we just don’t know, in fact, the person standing next to you at any time could be suffering with depression or a feeling of despair and helplessness. We have to try and be a positive and uplifting presence.
We can’t read minds, and not everyone shows “signs,” but we can still be aware, and we can still spread hope and love. Sometimes a kind word, a smile, or a friendly conversation can be the difference for someone thinking their life has no meaning. We aren’t going to save everyone, but we have to at least try, because “Any” really is “too many.” This is what I have to say to the writer of the article I read: I never did push-ups for “likes!” I always had the intention of my push-ups being a reminder that we were losing far too many lives. What is a billboard or a commercial on television or the radio? It is a means of getting you to think about a product and perhaps buy it! By sharing your push-ups, sit-ups, or whatever you choose to do to recognize this problem, you are keeping the issue in front of others, and perhaps getting them to think about trying to lift others, and even themselves, as they push through life every day.
I was impacted severely by Justin’s suicide, but the impact on family and close friends is something that will possess their thoughts for years to come. We all ask “why?” Why did he do it; why didn’t I see it. What if I had only paid closer attention? What if I had done this or that? We feel guilt and at the same time, we feel anger that they didn’t trust us. These thoughts haunt us, and there is nothing we can do now to change it…except try and to prevent the next suicide. I challenge everyone to help me to keep this awareness alive, and help me spread the idea that “Any is too Many!” I choose to continue to do push-ups, and I choose the number 20 as it is a nice round number. If you can’t do push-ups, do sit-ups, squats, curls, miles, steps, etc. Don’t just do it for veterans, do it for everyone. There seems to be a rising occurrence of youth suicides too, and that is also so very tragic. We may not be able to stop them all, but if we can even stop just one, or get someone to seek help, then that isn’t a waste of our time. I pray every day for Justin’s family and friends, and I pray for anyone touched by suicide. We can have an impact, but we have to keep the problem current. I suggest you do what you can. It seems every day of the week has something connected to it, so I have chosen Monday as the day I will share my push-ups and ask that you share your push-ups or whatever it is you do to remind yourself and those around you. I would love to see us share this and be that “billboard” for “Any is too many!!” Connect with me on facebook, @I Ride With Steve. Remember, “Just Keep Moving,” it is the key to longevity and the path to so many amazing experiences!