Community coming together With Inspirational Guest Speaker: Dana Chapman On a Mission to Stop Veteran Suicides
Refreshments Will be served. A goodwill offering Will be collected for the Will power for veterans fund, Inc.: To build a retreat Center ~ A place to heal for veterans and first responders.
Thursday May 3, 7:00 p.m. Church of St. Mary ~ 45 Freestone Ave. Portland, CT .
Sponsored by: The Knights of Columbus, Council 7, Portland and the Parish of St. Mary. In dedication to my veteran son William, age 24, who lost his willpower to go on due to his emotional wounds endured from Afghanistan.
The National Day of Prayer is a day of prayer held each year on the first Thursday in May. It is a day designated by the U.S. Congress when people of all faiths are asked “to turn to God in prayer and meditation.” Each year since its inception, the President has signed a proclamation encouraging all Americans to pray for our country on this day. Since 2015, the Parish of St. Mary Portland, and the Knights of Columbus Council 7, have hosted a National Day of Prayer Ecumenical Service, encouraging people of all faiths to attend. Along with prayer and song, the service also features a dynamic guest speaker who is passionate about working to change a serious social problem that our state and nation face. For 2018, our guest speaker will be Dana Chapman from Suffield, CT. Dana is a mother on a mission to stop veteran suicides. Dana’s son William, at the age of 18 enlisted in the Army National Guard where he served for 6 years. William spent one year of combat duty in Afghanistan. Upon his return to the United States, William was being treated for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder due to his emotional wounds endured from Afghanistan. Tragically in January of 2017, 4 months after leaving military service, 24 year old William ended his life by suicide.
I want to thank the church of St Mary for inviting me to be here on such an important day, I am honored.
I would like to share some things with you.. in an effort to raise awareness regarding something that directly impacted my family which also effects our entire country, and by coming together in unity can truly help many who are in need.
I would like to share one of my last deep conversations I had with my son... One night he stopped by for a visit.. we were sitting in the car talking while my daughter (his sister) Alicia was playing soccer.. he said to me, “mom, I don’t believe in God anymore..” I said William, why do you say such a thing??? He said, “well if there was a god, he would never permit the bad things that happen in this world to continue or he wouldn’t allow the (things) I saw in Afghanistan (which I still see in my head), if he were real..” I placed my hand onto his.. and I said “Son.. you have it wrong... God, gave us free Will forever ago, and what that (really) means is bad things happen to good people, and innocent people get caught in the crossfire.. that these “bad things” are not Gods doing, they unfortunately are ours.
My son lost his Will power to go on, his emotional pain was deep and it was real. He was seeing the VA to try and feel better because he loves people and he loved life, he was a gentle soul, he just wanted everyone to get along, no fighting, no drama... but the system failed my son. He asked for help, and the response to his sacrifice and service was an early discharge in August 2016. He felt worthless, more isolated, and very alone as if he were damaged goods... and he ended his life by suicide only 4 short months after his discharge. I have to tell you that not once had the national guard or the VA bothered to call his next of kin, which is me; to inform me he was traumatized or diagnosed with PTSD. They couldn’t be bothered to inform me that he attempted his life prior to his discharge. They couldn’t be bothered to call me to check in on him after his discharge just to be sure that he was at least in caring hands... The national guard or the VA hasn’t bothered even to this day, to give me a call or a note to personally thank me for my son’s service or to offer condolences for our loss. To lose a child to suicide is the most painful experience endured. They couldn’t even be bothered to make sure I at least was offered or directed to resources to help me help my family cope from the worst loss imaginable to a family.
You see... A (very) broken system, which failed him, and it fails us!
As my grief and pain shifts from shock to reality about my son no longer here with us, and the only thing I have left of him are (past) memories... As I replay a few conversations in my head, I now see my missed opportunities... where (if) I had only dug into a little deeper.. a comment or two he made to me, that I unknowingly passed by.. the should haves and the could haves which haunt me. Just a couple missed opportunities, but the hard fact is?? I Will never get the chance to redo or undo those missed clues in conversations.... I can’t get my son back.
But, what can I do? Well, I can learn more and share with you what I learned so together we can make every effort to help prevent such tragedies that ruin so many lives.
I set up a non profit organization; will power for veterans fund, in memory of my son (dedicated) to our veterans and first responders to enable myself and those who also want to help such selfless and deserving people through difficult times, which the current “system” fails at....
I can make noise and talk to those Willing to listen about my story, which sadly, is just (one) of far too many.
But I ask, what can you do?
You can help me to make noise and to further educate people to heighten awareness. To enable us to rally together as one big voice standing for those who stood for us.. to put our government, service branches, and the VA to a much higher standard while holding those people more accountable. To make the necessary changes and to insist on better care for America’s heroes (throughout) their entire service journey.
This loss which directly affected my family also is a national crisis that affects our country. And guess what?? It is all of our business. There is a lot of mind blowing statistics and documented publications for you to investigate and dive deeper into, and I urge all of you to do that so we are a more informed nation.
In short, in the last 20 years we lost aprox 130,000 veterans to suicide... and for each one of them there had to be approximately 1-4 first responders directly effected from the scene of that suicide. Add another approximately 4-8 (immediate) family members that each suicide directly impacted... A real loss estimation of approximately 1.5 million people who became traumatized or left to suffer deeply from veteran suicides in just the last 20 years. America can no longer allow this to continue. Losing my son hurts me deeply, but it should hurt all of us. They serve our country and communities and then are left to figure out their pain, and traumatizing experiences alone within a very broken system.
What else can we do? I ask each of you today to pledge to get suicide awareness and prevention training, also known as Q P R = (question, persuade, and refer) someone to seek help, take 90 minutes out of your day. Having this training and knowledge could equip you to provide the opportunity one day to save a life worth saving!
What else can we do? We can give back to those who gave to us first. Become an advocate on their behalf, we can lend a hand whenever the opportunity presents itself. We can stop to thank our men and women just because they put us and our country before themselves.
We can build a retreat center to offer a place for America’s heroes who suffer similarly to vacation together, giving them a place to relax, bond, and heal.
I want to share one more story with you... just 3 days ago, it was my son’s birthday. A very difficult time for my family. On special occasions, we Will send off a balloon into the sky because we like to think William gets a closer look from heaven our message of love to him.
Well 3 days ago I was away on a business trip, and I didn’t have a balloon with me. I decided to go to the concierge and ask the man for a favor. To see if there was a way he could provide me a balloon so I can face-time with my daughter and husband so we can send our balloons despite being in different states so we could celebrate his life lived together. I mentioned to the young man that my son served our country proudly from the age of 18 and we lost him last year. That today is his 26th birthday. He said “Mam, what is your son’s favorite color?” I replied blue.. he said you wait right here. About 5 minutes later he came back with 3 balloons for me to send off to honor my son. As he handed them to me he asked where he served and what year? Which I replied in the Kandahar region of Afghanistan 2012-2013. He shared that he too served in that very same region but a little before my son. I said to “come here and give me a big hug and as I squeezed him, I said thank you for (your) service.” And I told him that “my new mission in life is really about him and all those serving us.” I gave him my Will power for veterans contact card and he said he would check it out and then we parted ways.
Later that evening to my surprise, when I got to my hotel room a letter awaited on my floor addressed to me. On it wrote “fallen but not forgotten” (a hand written letter which I Will cherish forever). The inside title wrote: A soldiers prayer. dear lord, I am just a soldier, a protector of the land, a servant called to battle when my country takes a stand.. I pray for strength and courage and a heart that Will forgive. For peace and understanding in a world for all to live... my family’s prayers are with me no matter where I roam, please listen when I’m lonely and return me safely home.
Sincerely, Gunnery sergeant Chad McManus Martin United states marine corps.
His note and his effort touched me so deeply that the first thing the next morning I looked for him. I found his colleague and I said I was hoping to see him, she said he isn't in today but wanted to relay a message. “That he was grateful for (my service) and that I touched his life. I said I came because I wanted to tell him how grateful I was for his help, thank him for this beautiful note, and most especially to say I’m grateful for his (continued) service he demonstrated to me yesterday. Which he selflessly did while in Afghanistan and his time served. I wanted him to know that he touched my heart, and to thank him again and give him another needed hug!
There are so many people out there.. so many opportunities to make an impact... to make a difference in someone else’s life, and some of those acts can be life changing.
What more can we do? There are many great non profit organizations, get involved.. support them, support us at Willpower for veterans. To help support and serve those who truly deserve and need us.
Lastly, become more informed and integrated. When you have a loved one going into the military or going to an (unknown) or life threatening environment, or who are coming back home.. there are things you should know, so you can be that needed support system.
WE are in this together and it takes (all) of us.. our Goverment, our service branches, the VA (families and communities) to provide a collaborated effort to demonstrate “doing our best” to show our love, appreciation, and thanks for their selflessness. Because of them, they provided us the luxury we call freedom, which have been afforded to each one of us because of the countless men and women who sacrificed so much for our country and communities.
Let’s demonstrate in unity more patience, compassion, and love to those around you.. because we truly have no idea the pain and suffering that person is enduring. Offer friendship, this is one small token of effort we can do to make a difference and impact lives around us.
I want to especially thank my husband Angelo and my Daughter Alicia for giving me the courage and additional support to pursue this new mission. To better serve and support through advocacy, action, and fund raising for our veterans and first responders. I dedicate my efforts in my son’s memory so we have learned from his journey and identified gaps to help prevent this tragedy of lost lives to continue, because losing 22 Veterans a day, is not okay.