In the bright light of Veterans’ Day, Americans across the country take the time to reflect on and be thankful for the sacrifice made by military members, especially those who’ve served in combat. Yet, there is a severe lack of attention paid to many of the most troubled veterans who either don’t know where to ask for help, or — if they do — are turned away.
Such is the case of Andrew Chambers, whose TEDx talk is going viral after Veterans’ Day, and who knew he needed help but was sent away by a beleaguered Department of Veterans Affairs.
Speaking from Marion Correctional where he is currently serving 10 years in prison on felony charges, Chambers tells his story, including some drill-and-ceremonies manuevers and calls-and-responses that are commonplace during Initial Entry Training in the Army.
While serving in Iraq, around an enemy that blends itself into the populace, soldiers stay in a state of hyper-vigilance that is difficult to turn off once they return home. They miss the comfort of being armed and having another soldier watch their back. Whereas the military is a community in which one is almost never alone, the civilian world can seem like an empty place for a veteran.
The message in the video is simple: Listen to veterans’ stories.
We often speak with admiration about the stoicism of war veterans from World War II through Vietnam, who kept the horrors of war close-to-the-chest, suffering in silence. It’s a practice that should end. Listen to veterans’ stories and prepare yourself to hear shocking things. You should prepare yourself to not offer judgment or react with fear. Silence is okay. You don’t have to say anything. Just listen.
Chambers is currently serving his term in Marion Correctional, after losing his appeal in the Ohio Fifth Appellate District and being denied post-conviction relief from the Ohio State Supreme Court.
UPDATE: The original text of this article indicated Chambers was convicted of attempted murder. Further investigation revealed that the attempted murder charge was dismissed, but he was convicted of six other felony charges.