My New Enemy: Myself

This third article in a series of blogs related to the new Walton’s Warriors Peer Mentor Program is written by guest blogger Danny O’Neel. Danny signed up for the Army on September 11, 2001, when he was 19 years old. He was a Forward Observer, who are affectionately referred to as Fisters. 

My job in the Army was to protect my Infantry brethren by calling accurate artillery, mortars, and close air support strikes on enemy targets. Most of my time was spent as a squad leader, and the need to protect them is still my job. After serving for seven years, I had trouble adjusting to civilian life. I quickly learned that we needed each other now, just as much as in combat.

Danny O’Neel

Most of us have lost a number of friends to suicide:  I even lost a company commander after surviving the horrors of war. I had no hesitation jumping out of an airplane, but found myself giving excuses for not attending my children’s school performances. I realized I needed to learn more about my new enemy:  myself.

My family, including my military family, is my priority in life. We all need a mission, and mine is to help my warfighter family, and ensure they are being cared for. I have seen some of the hardest men on the planet break down, and need to take a break. I want to make sure we are noticing the warfighters in our community before they get to the brink, to make sure they have help and guidance from someone who cares.

I know that lending an ear and some time can make a huge difference in the thinking of a person in crisis. I want to give hope to those who feel their situation will never improve, and show them it can with hard work and support.  Adversity is something we are used to overcoming in the military, and it is no different in civilian life.

Project Sanctuary is taking the initiative to train Veterans on how to help each other by checking on each other and actively listening. Our hope is to make an impact that grows exponentially by word of mouth – talking to each other and listening for signs that someone could use some extra support or resources. By empowering us to take responsibility for each other, we gain a mission and a support system that can take action in times of crisis. As a peer mentor, I hope that other vets know they aren’t alone, and there are resources to help. I don’t want to bury another soldier because of suicide.


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