Operation Ranger Up

Ranger Up Talks Suicide: Why?

By
Updated: September 10, 2013
Suicide 500x400

 

By Special RU Contributor SFC (R) Michael Schlitz

My name is SFC (Retired) Michael Schlitz and I am a 14-year US Army Veteran who medically retired after a severe injury in Iraq. Almost every day I read an article or see a video on Veteran suicide and the rising epidemic our Service Members face. It saddens me to think that someone who chose to serve the greater good reached their breaking point. It’s almost unimaginable, but is it really?

I was injured just Southwest of Baghdad in February of 2007.  An IED struck my vehicle, killing my Medic, SGT Cadavero, the Gunner, SGT Soukenka, and Driver, CPL Henry, while throwing me from the vehicle on fire. I suffered burns over 85% of my body, the loss of both hands (due to the fire), and some vision loss.

Worse than the actual injuries was the impact it had on me.  I went from being a hard-charging Infantryman and Ranger to a guy who was left 100 percent completely dependent on others. I couldn’t walk, feed myself, or even go to the bathroom. I felt hopeless; and I was convinced that life would never get any better than it was at that exact moment in time. As my recovery progressed, so did the idea of suicide. I thought of all kinds of ways of killing myself – falling off a building, overdoses on meds, and even to the extreme of smashing my head through a glass window to cut my throat since I didn’t have the hands to do it myself. Some people would read this saying “that guy needs help,” but in truth it was a coping mechanism for me.

After 6 months in the ICU, 4 months in the burn ward, and about a year of outpatient recovery, life started to get better. I was fitted with prosthetic hands, my energy increased, and I was physically more mobile. Pretty soon the suicidal thoughts went from everyday, to every once in awhile, and finally to very seldom. It takes time and there is no real hard situation you’ll face in life that can be resolved in a day.

So how did I get to this point where the idea of suicide is less appealing?

I leaned on my support network of family, friends, and fellow Veterans. The two I leaned on most were Mom and my fellow Veterans. Mom was with me from the start pushing me through everything and is still helping me now. I know I wouldn’t be where I am today without her.

My fellow Veterans were able to say the right things to get me to continue on. From “Don’t Quit,” “Never Give Up,” and at times reminders that “Rangers Lead The Way” – I needed gut checks like those. Because of them I pushed myself every day.  I started remembering that the I was still me.  The injuries only changed my appearance, but not the guy I was inside.  It was time to start “taking objectives” again.

I have accomplished a lot in 5 years – from not walking to running, going to Iraq 3 times, and most importantly spending time with those around me. Had I committed suicide, I think of all the great moments I would have missed.

The one solid piece of advice I can offer is that everyone needs a purpose to wake up to. Sometime it’s work, family, or your hobby. Whatever it is, hold it close to you and don’t let go of it. My purpose in life my entire adulthood was the Army. Everyone knew I would drop anything for my career and one day it was gone. I had no purpose to wake up to and it left life feeling very empty.

As I got stronger I started doing some events with different non-profit organizations like Troops First Foundation, Operation Comfort, and Soldier’s Angels that are set up to support the Veteran community. While doing these events I talked to other Veterans and realized that we are a tight-knit brotherhood who needs to stick together.  I found a new purpose in life by helping Veterans who need help. I volunteer with a Veteran Organization called GallantFew that helps Veterans go through the transition phase. It’s my new purpose and more important to me than my career ever was.

Reading these suicide articles really hits home for me because I’ve been there and still on occasion think about it. I can say life does get better, but you can’t do it alone. Reach out to your family, friends, or the Veterans you served with who shared those experiences with you. Who better to talk it out with then the men and women that were next to you?

But you need to reach out and let someone know. People like me are not good at reading between the lines. I’m working on educating myself on the warning signs, but ultimately it is up to you to seek help. Please reach out.  Even one Veteran Suicide is one too many. You are not alone and you do have people willing to help.

If you have any questions hit me up on Facebook at:

https://www.facebook.com/michael.schlitz?ref=tn_tnmn

Look up GallantFew and sign up for help:

http://www.gallantfew.org/veteran-sign-up-form/

For immediate help call the Veterans Crisis Hotline:

CALL   1-800- 273-8255

TEXT   838255

Visit their page for more info at:

http://www.veteranscrisisline.net/

Comments

comments

25 Comments

  1. M Saunders

    June 21, 2012 at 9:47 pm

    Mike, I’m so proud of you, I’m glad you’re sharing your experiences with others. I’m always here. Xo

  2. RC6

    June 21, 2012 at 11:02 pm

    You’re awesome Mike! It takes a lot of courage to tell it straight, and the work that you do everyday for veterans is significant. Thank you for your continued service to the community.

  3. Michael Broderick

    June 22, 2012 at 12:43 am

    Mike,

    Getting to know you over the last couple of years has been a high point for me. Your “Never Give Up” attitude shows through in your continuing work to help your fellow veterans. I’m proud to know you, pal.

    Best,
    Michael

  4. Ranger Bob

    June 22, 2012 at 5:17 am

    Michael: Thank you for your service to our Nation and thank you for serving our Veterans. Whether you know it or not, you are an inspiration to many.

    RLTW

  5. Ranger Lindy

    June 22, 2012 at 6:50 am

    Nicely said, Mike. You and I lost a good Brother to suicide; I remember you telling me the morning we met for breakfast – broke my heart. If you ever get down, you know I’m always here to talk, vent, scream, whatever, I’m here. You know how much I love you and Robbi and will do anything to help. I have also seen how much you have done and continue to do for your Brothers of all Services. For that, you have become an Angel, yourself. God bless you, my Friend, my Brother, my Inspiration. Love from your Ranger Mom ;-))

  6. Mr. Twisted

    June 22, 2012 at 9:27 am

    Mike, thank you again for writing this, and thank you for not giving up.

  7. Dan Hammond

    June 22, 2012 at 10:19 am

    Thank you for an amazing story, Ranger. You are a living example of my own motto, “There’s always an upshot.” Soldier on. You will inspire others; you inspired me.

  8. Thug 5

    June 22, 2012 at 10:40 am

    Ranger,

    Thanks for sharing this – We need guys like you to keep up the good fight in helping our brothers and sisters in arms make that tough transition and learn to deal with the pain, while finding the objectives that keep us going forward. Thanks for everything you’re doing and please continue to push on!

    ILTW,

    Thug 5

  9. Karl Monger

    June 22, 2012 at 12:16 pm

    Mike, you inspire me daily. Another is Boone Cutler who talks about the Spartan Pledge http://www.descendantsofsparta.com, a vow between two Warfighters.

  10. Karl Monger

    June 22, 2012 at 12:17 pm

    Mike, you inspire me daily. Another is Boone Cutler who talks about the Spartan Pledge http://www.descendantsofsparta.com, a vow between two Warfighters. You continue to lead the way. Karl

  11. SFC Marc Kodiak

    June 22, 2012 at 3:07 pm

    Great article, I just recently lost a soldier from a previous deployment to suicide, I never saw it coming and he didn’t leave a note. I don’t know what pain he was going through, but I know the pain and guilt I feel, that he didn’t feel he could reach out. Whatever you do reach out, we got your six

  12. Kelly Smith

    June 23, 2012 at 8:36 am

    Mike, what a great article and very eye opening. I appreciate that you would share your experience and thoughts of suicide. It takes a lot of guts to be able to openly admit and share something like that, but coming from a Ranger, I’m not surprised!! You are a hero and inspiration to everyone you meet, thanks again for your prior and continued service to our country.

  13. Jill Trammell

    June 25, 2012 at 9:04 am

    Mike,

    You’re loved by so many people and we’re blessed you are with us. You make the world a better place everyday when you tell your story and help veterans! Thank you for sharing with us so intimately. It just shows the world what strength can come from tragedy.

    Grateful for your service and sacrifice,

    Jill

  14. KC in Seattle

    June 26, 2012 at 8:49 am

    Right on brother! Way to lead the way Ranger!

  15. FbL

    June 27, 2012 at 12:56 am

    I see KC beat me to it: You’re definitely leading the way, Ranger!

  16. Bluesheepdog_WA

    June 27, 2012 at 7:20 pm

    Mike,

    Add me to the list of people who appreciate your speaking out on this subject and inspiring others to get the help they need. You continue to this day to be the kind of leader the Army and Rangers taught you to be. You epitomize the Ranger Creed and I am proud to call you a fellow Veteran. From one vet to another, thank you for your service bro!

  17. Paul Morin

    February 11, 2013 at 3:52 pm

    By posting this article on FB I found a friends husband tried and is still in patient. It tears me up to here that but at the same time now with knowledge we can help him and his family better.

    Thank you.

  18. Chris Greca

    February 13, 2013 at 8:10 pm

    Mike -

    I am so proud to be serving in an Army with Soldiers and Leaders such as yourself! Even in a retired capacity, you continue to Lead the Way!

    Chris

  19. Candygrammy

    September 10, 2013 at 2:20 am

    I’m so glad you are still with us and made the right choice. You didn’t let your injuries define you as a person. Every person has value, and you would have caused much pain to your loved ones if you had acted on your initial impulses. Thank you for being considerate and caring for them! You can do so much to help save the lives of other service members. Suicide is a tragically permanent solution to what is most always a temporary problem. People who choose to check out are just too depressed to see a creative way out of their pain. Thank you for what you are doing! We so appreciate your service and what you have sacrificed for our country! My family will keep you in our prayers here.

  20. Murphy

    September 10, 2013 at 2:36 am

    Thanks, Mike.

    The gut check is pretty important.

    RLTW

    Murph

  21. Kim

    September 10, 2013 at 11:52 am

    God Bless You!
    I thank you not only for your service, but for your perseverance. As the wife of a medically retired Army Ranger, I commend you greatly. I know, but will never know what you have gone though.
    What you have written about your own experiences and terrible hardships are moving. I can only pray that the people who need to read them, will.
    You have been blessed. You “Ranger-edUp” and know you are still an important part of your chosen profession and duty.
    I send you my prayers and I hope your words can touch other Vets as easily and as much as you touched mine.

  22. Jack Murphy

    September 10, 2013 at 1:33 pm

    Good post Michael, people need to hear this.

  23. Bryan Staggs

    September 10, 2013 at 6:17 pm

    Michael,
    Sua Sponte, Brother! Thanks for stepping up and sharing your story. I think we have all been there, it takes a brave man to tell the truth and admit his weakness. We have lost to many warriors just because they were to proud to admit they/we needed help. Keep up the good work you and it is needed.
    RLTW! DOL!

  24. Frank CC

    September 10, 2013 at 10:23 pm

    “The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known
    defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found
    their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a
    sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with
    compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do
    not just happen.”

    – Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

  25. Team Spisso

    September 11, 2013 at 12:55 am

    Mike, it was a true pleasure to finally meet and work with you. You are a true inspiration! Just know that God has a much bigger plan for you down here! We got your six! RLTW!

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