Jun 17, 2016

Jacksonville, FL – Many surviving children have experienced and witnessed their parents returning home from war and have faced the responsibility to be the backbone for their grieving families. Children of Fallen Patriots Foundation provides a shoulder to lean on when surviving children need emotional support, specifically when facing the grief of losing a loved one to PTSD. 

Military PTSD is PTSD at its extreme. This severity is due to the soldier's multiple experiences in violent conflicts, both as victims, and rescuers of their fellow soldiers. Many Veterans experience highly intrusive thoughts and extreme guilt about acts committed during times of war. These thoughts can often overpower the emotional coping capacities.

The invisible injuries of service members pose complex challenges for military families, especially military children. Ashlynne Haycock is a Fallen Patriots scholar, and her father, Jeffrey James Haycock, served in the U.S Army and died in a training accident.  Ashlynne’s mother experienced trauma, especially after the death of her husband in the line of duty. She suffered from severe PTSD and ultimately killed herself.

With the right help, early treatment and on-going support, a good number of military PTSD suicides are preventable. Ashlynne has shared her family’s story to serve as a way to create awareness for PTSD.

My mother served in the Air Force in the 1980s, working in intelligence and spent most of her time in Germany before the fall of the wall, but I had no idea until I was 14 years old, while at a Veterans Day event, she stood up for the Air Force when they played the service medleys.  To me, she had always been a military wife and then with the loss of my father, she became a military widow.  She had experienced a lot, especially after the death of her husband in the line of duty—but I had no idea she was a veteran herself because she rarely talked about it and I never understood why.  It was not until I was in college and taking a psychology class that I came to finally understand; she had severe PTSD. The day the professor started talking about the symptoms, I could have sworn he was describing my mother.

She had horrible nightmares and depended heavily on sleeping pills to sleep. She was anxious and depressed almost constantly, and when she wasn’t, she was moving so quickly that no one could keep up with her.  She would go through phases of keeping the house so immaculate that you could eat off the floors and then all of a sudden she wouldn’t clean for weeks and moldy dishes would be in the sink.  She jumped at loud noises and could not stand to watch movies with violence. She was always physically affectionate with us, but if someone touched her unexpectedly, she would flinch and I could see how hard she tried to hide it.  Like many vets with PTSD, she turned heavily to alcohol to cope with the effects. I always thought it was just grief, but in reality, she had been like that before my dad passed and he was just better able to keep her balanced since he knew her triggers and knew how to bring her down from an attack. He was her lifeline and when he died, so did her ability to control her PTSD.  She took her own life when I was 19; I knew things were bad, but I never thought it would go that far. I did not understand that she needed far more support than my brothers or I could provide, and didn’t realize there was support available for families like ours.

After her suicide, I wanted to know if there was anything we could have done differently and I learned that there are many resources for veterans like my mom. Vets4Warriors is a national non-profit providing peer based support for veterans with PTSD who would have helped guide her to seeking help. The Department of Veterans Affairs is making large strides to understand and combat PTSD in veterans and the family members desperate to help them, including the National Veterans Crisis Line. Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors provides support to all those who lost a loved one in the military, and offers comprehensive programs for those who lost a loved one to suicide, taking the lessons learned by those who lost a loved one by bringing a voice for advocacy to the DoD and the VA to help prevent such tragedies from occurring again.

Hundreds of thousands of veterans live with the condition and their families live with the side effects as well. I can say from experience that these veterans and their families are desperate to know what help exists for them and encourage them to reach out and learn more about PTSD, even if there loved one isn’t ready to get help. There is so much I wish I had known 5 years ago before my mother took her own life, but I am incredibly grateful for all the organizations that are stepping up to make PTSD and suicide prevention a priority. I don’t know if my mom would still be alive had I known then what I know now, but I do know there is so much more that can still be done because one death by suicide is still one too many.

Fallen Patriots has been fortunate to have the generous support of organizations, like The Department of Veterans Affairs, who serve surviving children.

After a traumatic event, most people have painful memories. For many people, the effects of the event fade over time. But for others, the memories, thoughts and feelings don't go away - even months or years after the event is over.

Fallen Patriots ensures that every child of the fallen receives all necessary college funding and emotional support.

About Fallen Patriots

Children of Fallen Patriots Foundation honors the sacrifices of military heroes by ensuring the success of their children through college education. Since 2002, Children of Fallen Patriots has provided more than $12.3 million in total assistance, including college scholarships, supplemental grants and educational counseling to military children who have lost a parent in the line of duty. Nearly 20,000 children from all across America will need future assistance. Help today by visiting fallenpatriots.org.


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