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Speaker reminds those struggling to never give up

  • Published
  • By Glenn S. Robertson
  • 90th Missile Wing Public Affairs

The Mighty Ninety hosted speaker John Branahey for two hour-long sessions where he briefed Airmen about the crisis of veteran and servicemember suicide at the Trails End on F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyoming, Aug. 7, 2023.

Reaching into his own personal experience, he repeatedly echoed a theme throughout his briefing of not giving up, despite the challenges faced.

He, his father and his grandfather all served in the U.S. Army, but it was his father’s experiences in Vietnam and the broken man who came home that helped put Branahey on his path to help those suffering with thoughts of suicide.

Veterans are particularly susceptible to thoughts and acts of suicide because of the unique realities of military service and the hole created by that service when leaving, according to Branahey, and it is important for those who leave military service to fill that hole with purpose and camaraderie, and seeking help when it is needed.

Though veterans typically suffer through symptoms of post traumatic stress more than their civilian counterparts, an estimate by Veterans Affairs says that only half of at-risk veterans seek help.

It is that assistance, which can take different forms, that is so crucial to keeping those negative thoughts at bay, filling the hole and not leaving loved ones with the loss.

“You’ve got to heal from what you’ve gone through,” said Branahey. “Suicide is not a way out and it only leaves a wake of destruction behind you for the people who care about you. Do not quit.”

Branahey’s message and his discussion of his personal experiences is somewhat different from typical military training on the topic, but that message is important for service members and veterans to hear, according to Katelin George, licensed clinical social worker and True North program coordinator in the 90th Missile Security Operations Squadron.

“I reached out to John because I saw his presentation last year at the Wyoming suicide prevention symposium. I had just started that week with the True North program and thought it would be a great story for service members to hear,” said George. “I watched the impact that his story had at the prevention symposium and thought that it could be another way to try to get people’s attention and help them understand from a different perspective the importance of seeking help.”

Though healing and help with mental health can take different forms, Branahey noted that masking the symptoms of suffering with alcohol or drugs will never be a pathway to healing. Healing from the experience of military service and combat come from purpose, and most often require professional help to get through.

There is no shortage of agencies and organizations available to help those suffering, Branahey said, and they want to provide a lifeline for those who may be considering ending their own lives.

“There are hundreds of organizations out there trying to help you with what you’re going through,” Branahey said. “You don’t have to go through it alone. Just don’t quit.”