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I Didn’t Check On My Brothers: When ’22-a-Day’ Hits Hard

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by Heath Hansen

“Listen up, First Platoon. This morning, we got word that the police chief we were supposed to meet today, was executed last night. The Taliban rolled up, extracted intel, and shot him in the head. Does that mean the mission is canceled? Fuck no – we’re still going. And I promise you, there will be enemy contact. They know we’re coming.”

Fast forward a few hours. As my platoon made our way further into Eastern Afghanistan, we were struck by an IED. Three of my brothers were concussed, and wounded by shrapnel fragments. They were ambulatory though, so we figured everything was okay as they walked onto the MEDEVAC helicopter. The evacuation mission is shown in the video, below.

VIdeo by Heath Hansen

When they returned to the line and were running missions again the following week, I assumed they were back to 100%, and never took it upon myself to check in with them. 

May 19th, 2011 – I received word that one of them, my squad-mate Jason Loscheider, had committed suicide. I had only spoken to him twice after he got out of the Army, and I wondered if a third conversation may have saved him.

Three days ago, I found out another paratrooper I served with, Damian Cromartie, took his own life. We connected over social media, but never spoke after I left the military. Now, I wish we had.

The phrase “22 a day” is something I see and hear online regularly. It can become a hollow expression when those 22 veteran suicides a day are people you’ve never met. But then it happens to someone you know personally, and another buddy is gone.

When you get the news, and realize you will never hear from them again, the feeling hits you hard, and “22 a day” is no longer hollow, but painfully visceral.

Check-in with your buddies often. Even a quick “Hey bro, how you been?” could make all the difference to someone who is experiencing darkness and feeling completely alone. Don’t let your brothers-in-arms apply a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

Heath Hansen is a correspondent for Soldier of Fortune. He writes about war and the U.S. southern border.

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