Veterans tell WCU students about their “Unseen Scars”

Veterans discussing their experiences. Photo by Austin Page.

In war, there are no unwounded soldiers. An average of 20 veterans a day die from suicide and many veterans do not receive help.

On Nov. 14, a group of local veterans and students talked about their “Unseen Scars” as part of the Veteran day remembrance.

The event, held in the University Center Theatre, was a lecture-type presentation hosted by the Jackson County Veterans Organization. Veterans of various branches of the armed forces came to WCU to tell students about their time in war and how it affected them after coming back home.

The Jackson County Veterans Organization, a non-profit organization, is a small group of local, community, and student veterans of the United States Military who connect with each other through their Facebook page, that the public can now join, to speak to one another in support of their fellow veterans.

Dan Suel telling a WCU student about the Jackson County Veterans Organization. Photo by Austin Page.

“We just want to is to raise awareness of some of the challenges that not only veterans in the community have to go through but student veterans on campus,” said organization vice president Dan Suel. “ We try to reach out to local and student veterans to help them realize that we are here and we have resources available to them.” Suel is a veteran from Desert Storm, the first Iraq war, in 1991 and is also a student at WCU.

“I sometimes struggle to talk about my experience,” said Tom Baker who is the president of the Jackson County Veterans Organization. “Sometimes you wonder why you make it alive while others don’t.” One major topic the panel discussed was their personal battles with adjusting to civilian life after going into service. Losing friends, depression, wanting to go back and finish what they started and even thoughts of suicide. Research from Veteran Affairs showed that in America, 66 percent of veteran suicides were performed with a firearm. These statistics have been steadily increasing over the years. Since 2001 the average rate of U.S veteran suicides increased by 32.2 percent versus that rate of U.S civilian adults with 23 percent.

Tom Baker with a fellow veteran after the event. Photo by Austin Page.

The panel discussed their own battles with depression and how there were little to no programs that could help them. “At times it seemed easier being over there than back home, it’s a hard thing to swallow,” said John Baker, a veteran who spoke in the panel.

After the panel shared their stories the floor was opened to questions from the audience. Baker ended the event with a message to the audience. “When you see a veteran try to understand, when they cry late at night in their favorite chair; try to understand when on the 4th of July when the sky is full of fireworks a vet jumps in fear. A person being there is just enough to get us through the tough times.”