Veteran Suicide: The Sound of Silence


disturbedI am an absolute fan of Disturbed and their recent cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence”. Most of you have heard the song and some of you have listened to the lyrics. When Paul Simon wrote the song he was 21-years old, alone in the bathroom of his parent’s home, and inspired by some college textbooks to write a song about man’s inability to communicate. 52 year later, these lyrics still apply. 

Hello darkness, my old friend
I’ve come to talk with you again

Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Still remains
Within the sound of silence

Images of human suffering, loss, and humanity in its most primitive form. Sometimes the darkness is all you feel is left for you. The world has made warfighters into victims. A generation once celebrated is now led to believe they are somehow broken. The visions that planted seeds and still visit them while they are sleeping are too taboo to discuss with family and friends. They’re told no one will ever understand them, so they are isolated and remain in the silence.

In restless dreams I walked alone
Narrow streets of cobblestone
‘Neath the halo of a street lamp
I turned my collar to the cold and damp
When my eyes were stabbed by
The flash of a neon light
That split the night
And touched the sound of silence

And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more
People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening

People writing songs that voices never share
And no one dared
Disturb the sound of silence

Walking alone, turning their collar to the cold and damp, they try to protect themselves. To hide what our culture says it doesn’t want to know, yet glorifies it in every fictional form it can. When the time comes and for a moment they see light at the end of the tunnel and it feels like someone is trying to break through, they look closer to find the same Neon Light. Ten thousand people talking, but no one is really saying anything. People who say they hear and understand, yet aren’t listening. Patriotic songs and media frenzy occurs but the poetic stories of those who have endured and overcome are never shared. No one really wants to know the Truth.

“Fools”, said I, “You do not know
Silence like a cancer grows
Hear my words that I might teach you
Take my arms that I might reach you”
But my words, like silent raindrops fell
And echoed
In the wells of silence

Hear them? I hear the same stories every week. There’s even a #22challenge to promote awareness for the 22 reported Veteran Suicides each day. But the cancer grows. Instead of praising men for their sacrifice and listening to their stories we fear relationships. Hear their words so they might teach you and take their hands as they reach out. They know how to fix this! However, society is content to play off their advice and dismiss them as confused, illogical or broken. They couldn’t possibly be proud or have enjoyed what they were clearly and divinely designed for, could they? So their words fall silent into the wells with all those before them.

And the people bowed and prayed
To the neon god they made

And the sign flashed out its warning
In the words that it was forming

And the sign said:
“The words of the prophets are
Written on the subway walls
And tenement halls
And whispered in the sound of silence.”

Daniel 5:8: Then came in all the king’s wise men: but they could not read the writing, nor make known to the king the interpretation thereof.

  As our government and power brokers continue to beat their chest and praise the kingdom they’ve built, it seems even the wisest cannot predict what will happen. But the words of the prophets, the warfighters who have returned, are written on the walls of their homes. The tenements, the apartments, the subways of blue-collar America. They see a generation that desires to be empowered. They see resilient men who stood with passion. They see the drab future of an America that continues to victimize those who defended her honor and the more we isolate them, the more they will take their lives in desperation.

As I transitioned after 4 tours in combat I walked into their struggle. I fought to find purpose again and break myself from the lie that I was a broken man. When I hit my face in prayer these are the words He said.

“I created you to be a warrior. Never be ashamed of my creation.”

Fellow warfighters: You are courageous. You are loved. You are worthy. I am here for you.

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