A Vietnam vet’s ghost story

| 03 Apr 2023 | 11:44

I made 22 paper masks to tell a ghost story. Memorial Day is in remembrance of our military war dead. There are other war dead we want to forget. These are our veteran suicides. No one knows how many veterans kill themselves every day. It depends on who you ask and how the count is done. The number 22 has become the longstanding symbol of veteran suicides. Many believe it is much higher. Until that last breath, their deaths may be slow deaths, taking months, years, even decades.

The first step in becoming a soldier, sailor, airman or Marine is to die. Die to self. We do that by learning to kill other human beings and learning to live for others: our families, friends and neighbors. We learn to die for our country.

That first step is also the first step to becoming a ghost. It is the willingness to face death, the willingness to die. That ghost may haunt us for our whole life. War wounds, visible and invisible, may sap the lifewish and strengthen a deathwish.

For many, their war is not over until their last breath. Please remember that on Memorial Day. Please remember 22 dead vets a day. If you know a vet at risk, please call the national suicide hotline number: 988 (press 1 for the veteran hotline).

Everett Cox, U.S. Army Vietnam War veteran, is a former Orange County Joseph P. Dwyer veteran peer facilitator