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I believe the reason we’re all here is to share our story with the world. Because people need to hear it. At the end of the day, we all crave human connection. We want someone to connect with, to find someone who understands us. We all have something to learn from the people that cross our path. In a time where we are more “socially” connected but less connected to the person sitting next to us, we can forget how to have meaningful, impactful, inspiring interactions.
The idea for this project started with simple curiosity. I wanted to know more about the men and women who sign up to serve our country. And if I’m being honest, it also came from guilt. I felt that the people defending our freedom deserved more from me than a quick “thank you for your service”. I wanted to do more, and to know more. Like what kind of person does it take? What led them here? Why do they do it? And the question I wondered about most of all…what happens when they return home?
How do they transition into civilian life?
What challenges are they faced with?
What do they miss about serving?
So…a few months ago, I met with my first group of veterans in Downtown Las Vegas, and listened to them to share their stories. This marked the start of THE LOCAL LEGEND PROJECT.
I learned about the difficulties our men and woman of service experience, like accessing the benefits they earned, obtaining service animals, and finding work outside of their military branch that utilizes their unique and diverse set of skills. They made sacrifices, defended our freedom, and risked their lives for us. They’re heroes.
But I also learned how their service impacted them and changed who they are, and what gave them purpose. I discovered they all have dreams and aspirations they’re working towards, and that they endure pain that we can’t begin to understand. I had a desire to get to know a group of people and learn more about their story. After speaking with several veterans, my hope is that became much bigger than that. (More on this to come!)
They should return home with the same rights and quality of life that the rest of us enjoy. In many cases, that isn’t the reality.
According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, the number of veterans that experience PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) varies by service era but averages between 10%-30%.
Operations Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Enduring Freedom (OEF): About 11-20 out of every 100 Veterans (or between 11-20%) who served in OIF or OEF have PTSD in a given year.
Gulf War (Desert Storm): About 12 out of every 100 Gulf War Veterans (or 12%) have PTSD in a given year.
Vietnam War: About 15 out of every 100 Vietnam Veterans (or 15%) were currently diagnosed with PTSD at the time of the most recent study in the late 1980s, the National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Study (NVVRS). It is estimated that about 30 out of every 100 (or 30%) of Vietnam Veterans have had PTSD in their lifetime.
Other factors in a combat situation can add more stress to an already stressful situation. This may contribute to PTSD and other mental health problems. These factors include what you do in the war, the politics around the war, where the war is fought, and the type of enemy you face.
Another cause of PTSD in the military can be military sexual trauma (MST). This is any sexual harassment or sexual assault that occurs while you are in the military. MST can happen to both men and women and can occur during peacetime, training, or war.
Among Veterans who use VA health care, about:
23 out of 100 women (or 23%) reported sexual assault when in the military.
55 out of 100 women (or 55%) and 38 out of 100 men (or 38%) have experienced sexual harassment when in the military.
In addition to PTSD, TBI, and MST, there were more than 6,000 Veteran suicides each year from 2008 to 2016.
While these numbers are alarming and concerning, it’s important to understand that this does not mean our Veterans are broken.
Veterans that return home have the knowledge to impact and inspire us. They love our country, they’re proud of their service, and they’ve been through things we can’t begin to comprehend. They have a lot to teach us about strength, dignity, determination, sacrifice, and honor.
One question I asked all the veterans I interviewed was “What do you miss about your time in the service?”…What stands out is that for each of them, the response remains the same. They miss the brotherhood, the camaraderie, the friends that became family, and having people to share an experience with, and having a sense of belonging. As valuable as their service is to us and to our country, we owe it to each and every one of them to show them we value their experiences, stories, and who they are as individuals just as much as we value their service.
To all the men and women who have fought and continue to fight for our freedom in this country, I sincerely thank you. I look forward to meeting more of you and sharing your story!