Frankie Barretto left a troubled home life to join the U.S. Army and fell into a deep depression after being discharged for a knee injury. Suicide is the second most common cause of death in the U.S. military. Here, he discusses some of the issues we face with reintegrating soldiers into society.
I was in the Army with so many people and I got out right out before everything happened.
…I know people, I’ve lost friends that went over to Iraq and Afghanistan. I know people that have gone over and come back and they are not the same. The Veterans Administration, they are doing, in my opinion, they are doing a hell of a job to address these issues, and I’m seeing it firsthand just by the way that they’re treating me. They actually care.
A lot of the soldiers that come back that I speak to, they’re involved in so many different programs to not only help them acclimate back into society, but to help them deal with these emotions and deal with the PTSD and the ticking time bomb syndrome and all of the other things, ‘cause they saw a lot of things over there that the public is not privy to at all, and that stuff will definitely scar you for life. So, being a soldier and knowing people that went through that and losing people that were really close to me because of all of that, that’s something that I’m very passionate about…
I think the biggest problem is the disconnect between society and the soldiers. Society does not understand what these soldiers go through. That’s why you have former Marines and former Army servicemen getting shot and killed by police and getting locked up, and you hear it more and more every day because they’re labeled as crazy.
They’re like, “Oh, these crazy soldiers are coming back.”
The thing is, a lot of them don’t know that there’s help available for them. They just come back and they just try to live their life and they’re dealing with so many things. So I think, like I said, there’s a huge disconnect between how society sees it and what it really is…
They see what they see on TV and they’re thankful that the soldiers go over there and give their lives for our freedom, but when the soldiers come back, they’re stigmatized and they’re labeled as crazy and it’s not fair. It’s not fair to them at all…
A lot of them, they just internalize it. They have that soldier mentality. Like, ‘I’m a soldier, I can survive anything.’
If you’re feeling suicidal, please talk to somebody. You can reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.