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I remember an occurrence as a young man attending catechism class, not of free will mind you, my grandmother ruled the household with an iron fist and I simply had no choice in the matter, with a kick in the ass off I went. On this particular sunny Sabbath, the lecturing nun came to speak about how Judas was so distraught after betraying Christ to the Romans for 30 pieces of silver that he hung himself from a tree; clearly the acceptable Sunday school discourse for children… Distinctly, I recall having sympathy and dare I say empathy for my man Judas, in my naïve mind I saw his actions as honorable and understood how one could follow suit having walked a mile in his dusty sandals. He sold his leader up the river for personal gain, roughly 1780 years prior to Benedict Arnold’s infamous betrayal. Horribly ashamed of his actions he committed suicide as atonement. Pretty reasonable I thought, God would be merciful and understand; sincerely I assumed. To my bewilderment though, the aforementioned sister explained how his fate was sealed for taking his own life, his Soul would be forever condemned to the fiery pits for the enormity of eternity, with no possibility of redemption, endless lifetimes with no hope for parole; that’s some heavy shit!

Now fast forward roughly 15 years, honorably discharged after serving 4 arduous years in the Marine Corps, twice deployed to Iraq, I found myself lost with a tremendous void at my core, proxy for what was once my heart. My very being was in jeopardy and still I was numb to it all. I returned home relatively whole, darkness glimmering in my eyes, unaware of my internal turmoil. No longer patrolling the obliterated streets of Fallujah or serving as a mine – sweeper on the decimated, desolate roads of Uranium North. My battle at home began unassumingly and indistinctly. Stares replaced AKs, condescending insensitive remarks became RPGs. Hyper – vigilance, Moral Injury, and Post Traumatic Stress became my wingmen, together we scanned the grungy city streets of New York for potential threats (anyone familiar with NYC can imagine just how exhausting this could have been), my “fight, flight, or freeze” response was on total overload, home was no longer sanctuary. Unlike being deployed however, I faced these perils alone without the comfort of my squad mates, no one to watch my 6…

In that absence the thoughts began, initially as a way to rationalize the chaos I had just survived and had been unable to process; “You’re better off dead, why do you deserve to live when so many others, better than you didn’t make it? How can you live with yourself after what you’ve done? You’re a fucking monster! At first they introduced themselves in subtle ways; feelings of desperation and impending doom, severe anxiety, visions of no longer living and the subsequent solace that would result, or so I believed. Gradually the suicidal ideations would continue, increasing with intensity. Asphyxiated under the weight, crushed by the rapidly enlarging elephant in the room engulfing me, I was incapable of the petrifying vulnerability needed to confront such a radical reflection. Who would I even tell that would look at me with compassionate eyes, not ridiculing me as selfish or denounce me a coward?!

And so I did as many other hyper – masculine adrenaline junkies, I repressed my feelings and self medicated with an assortment of highly risky behaviors until I was emotionally comatose. My Soul yearned, craved the amnesty that suicide would surely deliver, still I lacked the conviction necessary for such a permanent undertaking. Silently I endured a visceral virus, devouring me from within. Unobstructed tunnel vision completely concentrated on my torment obstructed my peripheral perception; I lived in obscurity unacquainted to the alarmingly accelerated suicide rate plaguing the veteran community, my sisters and brothers in battle. A comprehensive study released earlier this year by the Department of Veterans Affairs concluded roughly 20 veterans commit suicide a day, with the rate having risen by more than 32% from 2001 – 2014, 21% higher than non veterans. What the actual fuck..?! Words escape me on how to adequately address this tragic epidemic. I endure for the others, who no longer can: we are kin forged, by the same flame.

Fortunately my story continues, with newfound perspective, hope, acceptance, gratitude, and a SHITLOAD of tools dedicated to maintaining the health of my mental, physical, and emotional states. The allure of suicide’s seduction has forever imprinted me; the thoughts have not quite unconditionally surrendered, they still wage guerilla warfare, ripe with hit and run tactics. Nevertheless, I have adopted a new battle strategy and it’s rather simple; I will continue loving no matter the consequence, because that’s what (Combat) Hippies do…

– Hipolito Arriaga III

1 Comments

  1. Anthony Johnson
    1 year ago Reply

    I thoroughly love everything that Combat Hippies represent. The message that you all relay to the general public as well as Veterans is uplifting and Positive. You bring PTSD to the forefront! You enlighten and educate. All while celebrating PTS Growth! I represent Combat Hippies everywhere I go. I as well as my family wear the shirts and wristbands! Keep doing what you’re doing! It’s a GREAT thing!!! GOD Bless!

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