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"Please, Daddy, Put That Gun Away!" ~ a Poem About Veteran Suicide

John is passionate about human and animal rights, social justice, equality, and the environment, and likes to convey that in his writing.

Welcome Home Daddy

Welcome Home Daddy

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.

(sbs.com.au 30/11/2016)

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).

We Go On by Kiki Howell

We Go On by Kiki Howell

© 2020 John Hansen


John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on March 19, 2020:

Thank you so much Fam. I tried to capture the emotions involved in a soldier's family life.

Fam on March 18, 2020:

The poem is obsessed with emotions and sentiments. True picture of a life of a soldier.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on March 02, 2020:

Thank you Brenda.

BRENDA ARLEDGE from Washington Court House on March 02, 2020:


This one touches so many hearts. I decided to share it also.


John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on February 27, 2020:

OK Lawrence thanks for sharing your perspective and your opinion of the song. I may look at changing it. My son in law has trauma even though he didnt see combat...he served in East Timor and Indonesia helping clean up after earthquakes etc......and the dead bodies of children that they had to pull from rubble and bury etc. Yes, they certainly need more help and resources.

Lawrence Hebb from Hamilton, New Zealand on February 27, 2020:


Excellent poem, but I have to be honest, I've always hated that song because it tells it from the side of the person contemplating it and not from the side of those who have to pick up the pieces!

Many of my mates, even in the Forces struggled with 'self medication' for the trauma they saw, friends blown apart in Belfast (the British Army lost over five hundred during that time) buddies killed in training (they take the training as close to the real thing as possible) and then Afghanistan and Iraq where you didn't know whom your enemy was.

While there's more help needed for the veterans themselves, lets also make sure their families get the help they need as they've been dealt a hand they never knew about or asked for.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on February 21, 2020:

Tamara, thank you for reading this and for your touching comment. I wish your family members serving in the military good fortune and pray and hope they never have to suffer this terrible aftermath of PTSD.

Tamara Yancosky from Uninhabited Regions on February 21, 2020:

John, this is a hauntingly truthful poem, and tears came to my eyes, as they rightfully should due to my sadness for what war veterans experience. I have family members in the military, and I pray for them, and their fellow crew.

Thank you for writing this, sharing it, and putting the spotlight on this horrific tragedy.

I have seen every episode of MASH, 3-4 times, at least. Was my favorite show. But, the beginning song always brought tears to my eyes.

Your poem is poignant, and deeply sobering; it is a beautiful piece of work.

God Bless Our Soldiers, Our Heroes!

❤️ ♥️ ❤️

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on February 04, 2020:

Yes war is terrible for everyone concerned, Meg. My father fought in WW11 also but never liked to discuss it. I think they used to call the condition being "shell shocked." Thanks for reading.

DreamerMeg from Northern Ireland on February 04, 2020:

War is a terrible thing for families and the soldiers. My father fought in World War II and my grandmother, his mother, said he was not the same when he returned. He helped in the liberation of one of the concentration camps but he would never talk about the scenes he saw to us as children and he died quite young (57) from a heart attack. PTSD was not recognised in those days, I think.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on February 04, 2020:

Yes they are heroes, Nithya, and need all the support we can give.

Nithya Venkat from Dubai on February 03, 2020:

Great poems about war veterans facing PTSD; scarred for life, the veterans must be living life after the war in hell. They need our support mentally and financially. They are the true heroes.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on February 03, 2020:

Thank you so much MsDora. I hope so too. it is an important subject.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on February 03, 2020:

It's a wise decision to publish this as a stand-alone poem. Thanks for giving this topic the importance it deserves. You did justice to the message. May it spread widely.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on February 03, 2020:

Thank you for reading this, Ann. It is difficult to describe the horrors that must replay in the minds of these brave ex-service men and women but we can draw attention to their plight. I did my best, and I greatly appreciate your supportive comment. Cheers.

Ann Carr from SW England on February 03, 2020:

This is a powerful poem, John, which portrays the subject so well. I can't even begin to imagine what seeing such atrocities leaves in the mind. Our veterans are brave and deserve as much support as possible to help them cope.

Your illustrations are powerful, too; well chosen and hard-hitting.

It's important, as you say, for us to draw attention to this and you've done that expertly. Your words come from the heart and are all the more powerful because of that.


John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on February 01, 2020:

Ruby, sorry to hear about your friend Tom’s suffering. No, there are no winners in war. Thanks for your comment.

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on February 01, 2020:

John, your poem cuts to the core of the life many PTSD veterans. My friend Tom fought the war as long as he lived. I wonder when we will ever learn there's no winners in any war? Your statistic on the amount of suicide is alarming and sad.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on January 31, 2020:

Thank you for reading and commenting Denise. It is a serious issue and needs to keep being addressed until more is done by those with the power to change things.

Denise McGill from Fresno CA on January 31, 2020:

Wonderful poem addressing an important message. Thanks for putting your expertise to it.



John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on January 30, 2020:

I totally agree Mel. We should leave others to live the lives they choose and stop using “to protect our freedom” as an excuse for war and to attack others. Sending our youth off to fight in other countries for often very questionable reasons has to stop and to me is a “war crime” in itself. Thank you for reading this.

Mel Carriere from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado on January 30, 2020:

Time to stop fighting silly wars that mean nothing, sacrificing our youth at the altars of the warmonger's greed. Fighting to protect our freedoms does not include invading other people's countries, in my opinion.

Lovely but sad work.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on January 30, 2020:

Thanks Clive. Yes, it could be Vietnam, or any war in fact.

Clive Williams from Jamaica on January 30, 2020:

Sounds like Vietnam to me. Good contrast.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on January 30, 2020:

Thank you so much, Bushra. I appreciate you reading this.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on January 30, 2020:

Lora, the statistics shocked even me..more people dead by suicide than killed in the conflict, crazy stuff. Yes, something needs to be done urgently. Thank you so much for your decision to purchase the book.

Anya Ali from Rabwah, Pakistan on January 29, 2020:

Good poem - brought tears to my eyes.

Lora Hollings on January 29, 2020:

A very powerful poem, John. I'm glad that you shined a spotlight on such tragedies. Your writing in this piece shows a depth of feeling that I really liked! We all need to show much greater support of these brave men and women who have shown such courage in the face of such challenges. These statistics are mind numbing and we need to act quickly to make positive change in our veterans' lives now. I will purchase the book, "We Go On," and I look forward to reading your story. Congratulations on it's publication.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on January 29, 2020:

Thank you for confirming the message of my poem, Rosina. For some the hardest fight is when the war is over.

Rosina S Khan on January 29, 2020:

War veterans have to fight new wars of depression and anxiety and they sometimes yield to suicide. This really has to be brought into global awareness so that something positive can be done to help them out. Your poem clearly indicates this message. Thank you for sharing.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on January 29, 2020:

Thank you for reading this Mark. I appreciate your comment.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on January 29, 2020:

Yes, Audrey, the care and resources for our veterans needs to improve. Thank you for reading.

Mark Tulin from Palm Springs, California on January 29, 2020:

Powerful poem, John. You described the problem in accurate detail and rhyme.

Audrey Hunt from Idyllwild Ca. on January 29, 2020:

There has to be a better way to treat our veterans. These brave, courageous souls deserve to be cared for...their needs should be met. Thank you for your touching poem.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on January 29, 2020:

Hi Verlie. I appreciate your comment. This is such an important subject and I am please Peggy requested a poem about it. It is difficult for the public who aren't directly involved with a PTSD sufferer to understand exactly what they have experienced and that they relive constantly. Most things are kept from the media.

Verlie Burroughs from Canada on January 29, 2020:

Powerful poem, presentation, and write John. It goes right to the heart of the horror of war. I'm sorry to hear that your son-in-law suffers from his experience, and I appreciate your good work trying to bring awareness to the plight of the veteran struggling with PTSD. Personally, I cannot imagine how difficult it must be. Kudos to Peggy Woods for her request.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on January 29, 2020:

Thank you for reading this MG, and for your generous comment.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on January 29, 2020:

Hi Peggy, I am happy that you approve of my take on this subject. Yes, the homeless plight of many veterans is another important issue in itself. I pray that one day the entire world could live in peace but maybe that is just a pipedream. I don't think there has ever been a time in history that there wasn't some conflict somewhere in the world.

MG Singh emge from Singapore on January 29, 2020:

Simply wonderful and full of noble sentiments.Thank you

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on January 29, 2020:

Hi John,

You did a great job with this serious subject. In the U.S., a good percentage of our homeless people on the streets are veterans. That is a tragedy! Living with the aftermath of a family suicide is heartbreaking for everyone involved. War is hell. If only we could all learn to be more tolerant of each other and live in peace, perhaps we could end the scourge of suicides. This proves that you can take any subject and do it justice! Thanks, John!

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on January 29, 2020:

Brenda, thanks for that great comment and confirming what I wrote. One reason I wrote this seperate from the regular Poems From the Porch articles was so that the title would attract attention..though that also got advertising removed from the article. I’m not too concerned by that to be honest.

BRENDA ARLEDGE from Washington Court House on January 29, 2020:


This is so touching. Just the title made me stop to take notice.

The words are exactly how it seems. I have known a few who do wake up in their sleep or act out while asleep.

It is so very sad and heartbreaking. Nothing one can say will ever remove the torment they saw in their eyes during war...only a friendly ear to listen.

I had forgotten about that scene in Mash.

Thanks for sharing.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on January 29, 2020:

Eric, thank you for sharing about the programs that are now available in your area. Yes I agree it is like alcoholism and needs to be controlled as it never goes away. I appreciate your input.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on January 29, 2020:

Linda, I am so sorry to hear about your friends’ losses and the continued sadness. Much more needs to be done in regard to education, care and support in regard to PTSD.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on January 29, 2020:

Thanks Devika. Sometimes we need to write about the touchy subject to raise awareness and instigate action or change.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on January 29, 2020:

Hi Bill, the care and treatment of ex servicemen and women should be given top priority. I hope change happens soon. Thanks.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on January 29, 2020:

I have been in many groups that were at least partially approach this matter. My wife works on a base. This is "Fighter Town". We probably have more PTSD per capita than most. One good part of news is that now there are special religious services and thing like AA and Meditative/yoga programs that help out in that area.

I believe making friends who "get it" is a huge step -- of course also for family.

Like alcoholism I do not believe you recover - you simple are recovering. It never goes away but skills can make it live able.

Thank for your attention to this matter and especially by such a skilled communicator.

Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on January 29, 2020:

Thank you for taking the time to write this; you chose your words well and crafted a heartbreaking and realistic story of the problem. Two dear friends have lost loved ones who were active military and could no longer endure the "war inside their head." And with their deaths, the pain lives on in the hearts of those around them.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on January 29, 2020:

Hi Jodah this is a touchy subject and your approach is perfect. Such tragedies are just that and difficult to cope with.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on January 29, 2020:

Our treatment of soldiers in the States is almost criminal in its lacking. Hopefully we will elect someone who can spur our Congress into action regarding the care of our brave troops. Thank you for this,John!

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on January 29, 2020:

Shauna, your comment says it all. I too can understand why they need to escape the constant torment and oh too vivid scenes embedded in their minds. It is just so sad there is little being done to change this. When more service personnel are committing suicide than are actually killed in war then something is very wrong. Thank you for reading.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on January 29, 2020:

John, I can only imagine the torture our veterans who have seen the effects of war live with on a daily basis. This might sound off-color, but I can understand why so many of them want to escape the vile images in favor of eternal sleep.

Your poem is very real and well-written. I don't want to deem it beautiful because of the ugliness of which it speaks.

I'm so proud of you to have contributed to "We Go On". Your calling is a noble one, my friend.

Thank you for this very poignant, eye-opening piece. Our veterans deserve and need to be understood.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on January 29, 2020:

Yes, Lorna, I agree PTSD needs its own special units and sufficient funding to actually have an impact in reducing the severity and preventing suicide. Far too many sufferers are labelled too hard or fall through the cracks of the normal medical system. Governments rarely learn unless they fear an issue may lose them an election.

Lorna Lamon on January 29, 2020:

The statistics are frightening John and shows quite clearly the extent of this very tragic issue. I feel specialist units need to be set up specifically to deal with PTSD. Many who go to their own GP struggle to get the help they deserve. Your poem tells their story in a very powerful way and highlights the brutality of wars and why they must stop. Are these governments never going to learn?

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on January 29, 2020:

Yes back at the end of WWII PTSD wasn't even known about. I supposed they called it being "shell-shocked." There is so much more that needs to be done I agree. Thank you for reading and commenting, Liz.

Liz Westwood from UK on January 29, 2020:

You have covered a sad, but very relevant topic well. I knew of someone who was in WW2. We now look back and realise that the rest of his long life was overshadowed by PTSD. In recent years at least it has been recognised, but there is much more that needs to be done to support the veterans to whom we all owe so much.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on January 28, 2020:

I greatly appreciate your kind comment Pamela. Has the war ever totally been at peace? I doubt it. War is such a pointless endeavour. Maybe one day that will become clear.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on January 28, 2020:

Thanks Flourish. Yes, there has to be an extensive education program for the rest of the general population and better and increased support for returning veterans.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on January 28, 2020:

This is a beautiful poem about what the wars do to soldiers. It is so heartbreaking and i know they are making strides in treating PTSD. It is still casing too may suicides around the world. I wish all the wars would simply stop but I don't think the world has been at peace in a very long time.

I really think you poem says so much and you covered this topic quite well. You are indeed a gifted poet and I always like what you write.

FlourishAnyway from USA on January 28, 2020:

I’m sure she will be very grateful. Service personnel pay a high price. It’s too bad that the rest of us do not receive better education on how to better support them and integrate them back into society when they return.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on January 28, 2020:

Thank you manatita. Yes, I have written quite a few pieces on war and the aftermath. I hope Peggy likes this poem.

manatita44 from london on January 28, 2020:

A gritty and pretty tough one, John. I have spoken on war a few times and have two poems on it. Never a nice subject. I write about complacency sometimes because with a little more will, we can stop some wars from happening.

You've done Peggy's subject well. Peace.

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