Veterans Avoiding Incarceration

Female veteran on the run from the police

Excerpt from 4-Hours to Live Memoir of a Female Soldier

...I waited for a half hour outside in the parking lot. The police were never called. On the drive home I thought, “I have got to get some help for this rage before I end up in jail for killing somebody.”

I warned myself that I would never survive jail. I couldn’t stand to be confined away from the outdoors. I would surely have to run, to evade capture at all cost. That would be easy. It’s not every girl who could say that she has a wilderness survival go-bag, but I can. But just as quickly as I thought the authorities would never catch me, I soon realized how easily they would.

After ten minutes in my condo, even a new detective would ascertain they were chasing a unicorn—a black woman who loves the outdoors. Otherwise known as a mythical creature said to exist but had never been seen....

The survival books on my bookshelf, the go-bag in my storage closet, the compound bow, hunting knife, and firearm cases under the bed would tell them that I was not hiding out among friends and family. Interviewing a few people who knew me would tell them where to start looking.

And from there it was only a matter of time before they’d have their unicorn in handcuffs. With evading law enforcement capture no longer on the table, I needed to get some help before someone else got hurt, and fast.

There are 181,500 incarcerated veterans

There are more than 181,000 veterans in prison in the United States, 47% of which report a mental illness, according to a 2012 report by the Bureau of Justice.

However, of this group, 68% were honorably discharged from the military like me.

Somewhere between being discharged from the military and incarceration, the veteran fell between the health care cracks. I could have easily become part of this statistic had I not overcome PTSD.

Read the full Bureau of Justice report here.

The Cost of Military Service

There is a cost to sending our armed forces into service for humanitarian and war efforts in situations where they bear witness to the worse of what human beings do to each other. The price paid is a mark on the psyche of the Sailor, Soldier, Airmen or Marine. Not to mention the physical dangers associated with training for these missions.

In researching this post, I could not locate any comprehensive data on the numbers of service members killed or injured in training accidents. However, I did learn in 2001 there were 22 non-combat related aircraft accidents.

According to a 2004 report from the Department of Defense's Recruit Mortality Registry, there were 276 recruit deaths from 1977 - 2001. Of those deaths, 60% were as a result of suicide after the recruit had experienced another illness or injury during training. This number is actually lower than the number of deaths for active duty personnel of the same age.

Loss of life among our active duty and veterans due to accidents and suicide is on the decrease, but the numbers are still too high. The United States has a volunteer armed forces. Young women and men are choosing to risk life and limb to perform humanitarian and combat missions around the world. Should not we as a nation do more than thanking them for their service?

Recovering from personal trauma and environmental trauma, such as experienced from being in a place where there is mass trauma or prolonged exposure to trauma, such as participating in post earthquake cleanup or serving in a non-combat roll in a war zone.

I challenge you to connect with a veteran in your family or community on a personal level and find out what you can do to give them the support they need to create a new normal after military life.

I want to hear from you caregivers and loved ones of a person struggling with mental illness, PTSD, or recovering from a physical or emotional trauma. I especially want to hear from anyone who has found their way to their own recovery—and new normal. This is a safe community in which to share your story so leave a comment.

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