CARLISLE — The U.S. Department of Veteran's Affairs estimates about 18 veterans commit suicide every day.
On Dec. 13, 25-year-old Dane Michael Freedman, a machine gunner for the U.S. Marine Corp. and a 2007 Camp Hill High School graduate, was one of those veterans.
“What really jumped off the (obituary) page for me was, you’d never guess in the world that he had any issues,” said Craig Williamson, a retired Vietnam veteran. “The family said he was having a hard time leaving behind all of the trauma and horror of war, but when he walked around on a daily basis, he had a big smile on his face.”
Williamson said Freedman’s death — like so many others — stems from “a lack of coping mechanisms” not offered through the VA treatment programs for post traumatic stress disorder. It’s something Williamson said he hopes his veterans’ support group will change.
“Medication doesn’t work for everybody,” he said. “Counseling doesn’t work for everybody. The VA doesn’t work for everybody. If I can stop one person from doing this to themselves and their family ... it will be well worth it.”
The group will use holistic techniques to treat the “root cause” of post traumatic stress disorder symptoms — something Williamson said he’s experienced firsthand.
“I’ve been through just about every treatment in the world, inside and out of the VA system,” he said. “It never felt like the VA was very effective. It seems like by the time they (veterans) get through the system, these guys are so far gone they can’t be helped.”
Williamson said combat veterans struggle with an inability to “reprogram” themselves for civilian life, admitting that the VA “is very limited in what it can do to treat these individuals.”
“You are programmed for violence, and all of a sudden, it’s like, what do you do now,” he said. “You have to change your energy totally and that’s where these kids have problems with.”
The support group will meet from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays, beginning Jan. 13, at the Bosler Memorial Library in Carlisle.
Williamson said the group is free of charge and open to all veterans.
“I’m not getting paid,” he said. “I’m not getting anything out of this. I’m just trying to change the statistics.”
Email Christen Croley at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @SentinelCroley