Staff Sergeant Joe Biel of the North Dakota Army National Guard returned from his second deployment to Iraq a changed man. On April 26, 2007, just six months after coming home, SSG Biel committed suicide.
In 2008, SSG Biel's friends and comrades created The Joe Biel Memorial Bike Ride as a means of raising PTSD awareness. The event caught the attention of U.S. Senator Kent Conrad (D-ND) and prompted him to author Senate Resolution 541 proposing June 27--SSG Biel's birthday--as National PTSD Awareness Day which the Senate unanimously approved.
The purpose of National PTSD Awareness Day is to bring attention to post-traumatic stress disorder by educating and reminding people (civilian and military alike) that there are resources, support and treatments available. Servicemembers and their family need not suffer in silence.
The Whole Family Suffers
When a servicemember is battling PTSD the entire family unit is caught up in the struggle. Imagine anxiously waiting for your spouse to return from deployment only to have him or her return as a changed person--and in some instances the changes are so dramatic that you barely recognize the person you married. Sadly, many military spouses don't need to imagine this scenario because they're living it 24/7.
If you have a moment, I encourage you to read It's Not Okay (a blog post featured at SpouseBuzz) written by Kristle, a military spouse and servicemember who is married to a wounded warrior suffering from TBI and PTSD.
Anyone in a situation similar to Kristle's will most likely relate to her experience, while those who've never traveled that path will come away with a greater understanding of PTSD and its impact on the sufferer and their family.
Additional Resources and Support
- VA Crisis Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
- VA PTSD Treatment Programs
- Help for Servicemembers
- Help for Military Spouses
Above photo courtesy of VA.