Power of Words
This first in a series of blogs related to the new Walton’s Warriors Peer Mentor Program is written by guest blogger Jeremy Rawls. Jeremy started out in the Marine Corps (2001-2005, with two tours to Iraq), then completed seven years in the Army National Guard, leaving as a Sergeant (E5) from the Infantry. More of Jeremy’s stories can be found on his website.
After 11 years of service, I was diagnosed with a lung disease due to combat, which ended my career. After leaving service, I received my bachelor’s degree from Mississippi College and helped start the first veterans association on the campus while I attended undergrad. Veteran issues are important to me, not only because I am one, but because of the community we belong to and how these issues shape it.
I signed up for Walton’s Warriors to help other veterans for many reasons, but suicide prevention impacts me the most. I lost four friends that I served with and my younger brother to suicide, though he was not in the military at any point. Over the years, I’ve seen families torn apart and children left behind to mourn the loss of a loved one. When a person commits suicide to alleviate the pain, it only transfers to those they love and care about. It becomes a world of open space and unanswered questions.
Writing brought me to college, because words are something I enjoy. One of my Marine buddies asked me to put him in one of my stories a few years ago, then he took his own life shortly after. I couldn’t bring myself to just add him in, like a cliff note. I wrote a story just for him. Since then, I write about the dark and often misunderstood worlds that plague veterans and anyone that trauma and tragedy has inflicted. I can’t sculpt them a monument from stone, but I can pay tribute through the power of words.
I’ve never engaged in a program like Walton’s Warriors, and I can say I have never seen the like concerning their endeavor. A local group that I attend functions for/with near my home, the Warrior Bonfire Program, sent me to partake, as they do similar objectives from a different perspective. I believe Walton’s Warriors has great potential, and I have seen the warriors who participated at the first training event become emboldened to stand up and be counted. I anticipate the second training evolution to be even better. We are not just veterans subject to branches of service, MOS’s, or combat experience. We can’t always have the mantra of “lead from the front,” if we never apply it. No. We are warriors helping warriors. The way things should be.