A Memorial Day Reflection

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memorial day

As we take time to remember the military heroes who sacrificed for this country, let us also remember those who served and returned. Some of them came back changed, never to be the same, or never to be what they could have been had they not been sent to war. And let us not forget those who served in eras of greater peace, who although never called to serve in combat, nonetheless served their country.

I am one of those who served in an era when things were much quieter. I served in the U.S. Navy from January 1985 to October 1989, and was blessed to escape the soul-damaging, spirit-crushing cauldron of combat. But I write this as a reminder that even in peacetime, with no one deliberately taking aim at you, service in the military is a hazardous environment.

I want to be of service to my fellow veterans who may have experienced issues with substance abuse or other disorders. I drank very heavily from the time I entered the service until December 28, 2012. I was also experiencing issues with depression, though they went untreated until I got into the Veteran’s Administration healthcare system in Los Angeles. My alcoholism progressed over the years, and the “good times” became fewer, and much further between.

I knew there was something going on in me that wasn’t right, but I wasn’t dealing with it. I chose alcohol, and some marijuana from time to time but mainly alcohol. That was delay, deny, and douse, a method guaranteed not to solve your problems. Believe me, the problems didn’t go away because I was drinking. I merely thought they did, or I just didn’t care. But all the while, the unaddressed problems were there, accumulating interest until I reached the point where I just couldn’t manage.

Thankfully, the VA was there for me, and the help I got has turned my life around. I went into the Los Angeles Domiciliary program, which is a residential, inpatient treatment program for various issues ranging from depression to alcohol/substance abuse to combat stress, or combinations thereof. It took me awhile to get to the point of being ready to admit there was a problem, but I am glad I finally got there. Some never get to that point, and the drugs or alcohol take them before they can get help.

I have been clean for over four years now, and my life now is so much better than it was before I got the treatment. I no longer get up each day dreading what lies ahead, but l look forward to each day now, and I am taking care of myself now, by regularly exercising, and eating a healthy diet, which I was not doing before I got into the treatment for the alcohol abuse. I want to encourage my fellow vets, on this Memorial Day, to seek help if they need it. You will know if there is a problem; you will know the feelings of despair and hopelessness, but you can overcome them.

Today, my life is so much better than it was just a few years ago, that it seems like an entirely different life. I like where I live, I like my neighbors, and I enjoy the daily chores that make up my life. Most of all, I like myself, and I owe this to the help I got from the VA. Help that is available to all veterans.

Veteran’s Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255. Press 1.
Confidential chat at: VeteransCrisisLine.net or Text to: 838255

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About the Author
Ken Klemm

Ken Klemm

Ken Klemm is a veteran of the United States Navy. He is an alcoholic writer, which may be redundant. After a 30 year journey through the bottle, he attained sobriety with the help of the West Los Angeles VA, where he also returned to writing thanks to a Creative Writing class facilitated by Leilani Squire. He currently resides in Oregon.

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