Posted at: 05/24/2013 6:17 PM
Updated at: 05/24/2013 8:24 PM
Over Memorial Day weekend, we will all remember those who gave their lives for our freedom. But what about the thousands of men and women who are still fighting their own invisible war?
The U.S. Departments of Veteran Affairs says almost two dozen service members commit suicide every day.
The average age of veterans who commit suicide is 59 years old. While suicide attempts have decreased, the daily suicide rate is up, from 18 veterans a day to now 22.
The number is growing because of post-traumatic stress disorder, and there are ways veterans and loved ones can reach out for help through hotlines and local organizations.
When 26-year-old Shawn McIntyre returned from service in Afghanistan, he says he wasn't the same.
"I became short tempered. Had a lot of nightmares. Hard time driving down the road, in crowded places. I hit rock bottom. I had a suicide attempt where I didn't want to live no more," says McIntyre.
McIntyre says he didn't want to fight anymore, so he went looking for help. That's when he found a local program called "Warrior Salute."
Robert Mixon, the VP of CDS Monarch says the organization is, "gravely concerned about the suicide attempts and what they represent. It represents the despair that we as Americans have to do something about."
As part of CDS Monarch, Warrior Salute has helped more than 50 veterans. It's a 6-month program that helps veterans overcome their own inner struggles with therapy and rehab. It helps them get back to the simple things.
Shawn McIntyre says, "I'm able to go into crowded stores now with little to no problems. I get more sleep now."
Organizers are like a second family to veterans like McIntyre. They are hoping his story can push more veterans to realize they are not alone.
"Reach out and ask. People help, people want to help. This is a great and caring community in Rochester and Warrior salute is an example of that care," says Robert Mixon.
McIntyre says, "I found out that there is reason for living and enjoying life."
Shawn McIntyre now works for Warrior Salute. He makes his living by packaging spices. It's one of the ways they raise money for the program.
You can find the Veterans Affair's suicide report here.
You can learn more about CDS Monarch on its website and you can find more information on Warrior Salute and its products by clicking here.
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, you can call the Veterans Crisis Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.