"Please, Daddy, Put That Gun Away!" ~ a Poem About Veteran Suicide
A Poems From the Porch 20: A Stand-Alone Poem ~ for Peggy Woods
This poem is one that was requested in the comments of my Poems From the Porch series. Because of the importance of the topic I felt that it may get more views and therefore reach more people if I published it as a stand-alone poem. It is also quite long.
I apologise to those who were expecting poems this week but I will try to write as many as I can to include in Poems From the Porch 21.
Peggy Woods asked the following:
"How about one about the sadness of so many war veterans committing suicide. The rising statistics are alarming."
Thank you for this request Peggy. I have a son in law who left the defence force suffering from PTSD, so it and veteran suicide are issues that have indirectly affected me. Much more needs to be done in regard to the treatment, support for sufferers and as a writer I feel a responsibility to help raise awareness of these issues. A few years ago I wrote another poem here about PTSD called "Counting Sheep." You may like to check it out as well.
I hope you enjoy "Please, Daddy, Put That Gun Away!"
"Please, Daddy, Put That Gun Away!"
Heroes returning from the war,
Back to their normal life.
Loved ones glad to see them home
From the bombing, killing, strife.
But, life will not be like it was,
These heroes not the same.
The sad atrocities they saw
Are embedded in their brain.
They may have wounds that you can see,
And these may be severe,
But it’s the damage to the heart and soul
That many veterans fear.
To watch your comrades killed and maimed
As you fight by their side,
See women raped and children slain,
All makes you die inside.
There are things we don't see in the news
That would make your stomach turn,
Like collecting scattered body parts
To bury or to burn.
They should be happy to be home
And forget about the war.
But, that is easier said than done,
In the mind’s a festering sore.
Veterans wake at night and scream,
Reaching frantically for guns,
Dreaming they’re under attack.
This leaves their family stunned.
“Please, Daddy, put that gun away!
It’s just me, your daughter Jan.
I heard you yelling in your sleep.
I’m not the Taliban.”
Some families can't survive the strain,
The turmoil and the fear.
All but the strongest unions fail,
Of this we rarely hear.
Simple social interaction
Becomes a scary thought.
Depression and anxiety
Are the new wars to be fought.
Many veterans cannot cope
With the war inside their head,
The images that will not cease,
And that so many friends are dead.
"Suicide is painless,"
So says the theme of MASH,
"So, should I use a firearm
Or prepare my wrist to slash?”
Too many heroes take their lives,
More than who die at war.
Something urgent must be done
To reduce this shocking score.
Veteran Suicide Statistics: Australia
Comprehensive statistics gathered on defence force suicides show almost twice as many suicides among young ex-serving defence force personnel compared with the Australian national rate.
Figures from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare show from 2001-2014 there were 292 defence force personnel who took their own lives, but that only includes personnel who joined from 2001.
Ex-serving men aged 18-24 accounted for 23 suicides during that time - a rate that's almost twice that of Australian men on average.
There were 41 Australian soldiers killed in the Afghanistan conflict and more than 260 were injured.
Veteran support groups like the Defence Force Welfare Association believe mental health is the biggest problem for serving men and women when they come home. Marriage breakups, inability to find or maintain a job, and homelessness are just some of the challenges faced by veterans and for many a combination of, or any one of these can be too much to handle.
“We have lost more people through suicide than we lost in the Afghanistan war,” said the Association’s National President David Jamison. He believes the number of suicides is much higher than figures suggest because many cases are not reported.
“People do not want to admit that a member of their family or one of their mates has committed suicide. It’s not something that people want to talk about,” he said.
We Go On
We Go On (compiled by Kiki Howell) is an anthology of short stories and poems written by various authors and some veterans themselves telling how their sacrifice of service changed their lives long after the war was over.
To honour these unsung heroes 100% of the profits from the sale of this book go to charities for veterans. I own a copy of this book and am proud to have one of my own stories included in this anthology, and I can thoroughly recommend the other stories and poems. It is available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle versions (ASIN:B00TM5JRHG).
Suicide is Painless
The following video is from MASH the movie. It is quite a good version of the original song used as the MASH theme tune. However, the one I was tempted to include (especially as advertising has already been removed from this article due to automatic content filters) was the version by Manic Street Preachers.
The photos of war and the atrocities that are used in this video though are not for the faint hearted even though they support the strong message of the poem. If you are not easily upset by these types of images feel free to click on the link above.
© 2020 John Hansen