Normalizing Talking About Suicide

| September 10, 2023

This is one in a series of short discussions of the myriad ways our society in general, and the mental health field in particular, fail to understand the veteran culture. That there is a such a thing as a “Veteran Culture” as something unique is itself a hotly contested when not summarily dismissed concept.

Writing about suicide on a public forum can be lethal to the careers of those in my profession. Unless all the same ideas and theories are supported and the appropriate platitudes are repeated, of course. Dare to say that conversations about suicide need to be normalized and you may as well start practicing for your next job by smiling into a mirror as you say, “Do you want fries with that?”.

If you have ever been to a VA hospital, any behavioral health facility, an emergency room, most private practice crisis centers, or even your GP, in other words, just about any mental or medical health care facility or provider, you’re well familiar with the National Institute of Mental Health’s (NIMH) ASQ, though probably not by that name. It is four simple questions, with a fifth follow-on, depending on your responses to the first four.

The direction to those asking the questions is to be matter of fact and ask the questions as written. What to do with the responses is delineated as well. I don’t follow any of that advice when working with a veteran or First Responder. In truth, I don’t follow that advice with pretty much anyone, at least not since I moved into private practice. Even back when I was required to read them verbatim, I was quite clear that I expected to be lied to, and their actual responses were the smallest part of the conversation. Even back then, when dealing with veterans or First Responders, since they often knew these questions and the NIMH advised course of action based on the answers, to say this was a pointless exercise is an epic understatement. Still, the four golden questions are:

  • In the past few weeks, have you wished you were dead?
  • In the past few weeks, have you felt that you or your family would be better off if you were dead?
  • In the past week, have you been having thoughts about killing yourself?
  • Have you ever tried to kill yourself?

An answer of “yes” to any of the above requires the follow-on of,

  • Are you having thoughts of killing yourself right now?

An answer of “yes” to any of the questions is directed as a “positive screen” and particularly in the case of a hospital emergency room or VA appointment, the prescribed course of action states the patient/client cannot be allowed to leave until further evaluated for safety. Even if a patient/client does not say “yes” directly, a refusal to answer, or if in the clinical judgment of the provider the negative responses or denials are deemed not truthful, it is directed as a “positive screen”, followed by the same prescribed course of action.

More often than not, veterans I’ve had the pleasure of working with laughingly respond to question number one along the lines of, “Just in the past few weeks? Not particularly”, or “What would make the last few weeks different from the last few years (or decades)?”, or something equally sarcastic.

Question two generally gets a similarly caustically delivered response, to include the exact dollar amount their family will get. An opposing, but equally acerbic answer would be along the lines of, “the primary reason I’m alive today is I’m not going to let that (insert inappropriate word for a former spouse) get their hands on or control over that money.”

I have never asked the third question as written. Instead, I ask “when was the last time you thought of killing yourself”, not because I believe all veterans and First Responders are suicidal, but because this phrasing elicits a more honest and useful response. Particularly after I laugh – genuinely – at the creativity of the first two answers. To me, those are more ice-breakers than real questions.

Regardless of any previous answers, non-answers, and on one memorable occasion, name-calling, that fourth question is asked straight, as is. But it is not a stand-alone. I say, “Have you ever tried to kill yourself or cause yourself harm?”. Generally, by that point, we are having a conversation and there is sufficient rapport that I get an honest response. This is not because I am asking these questions, it is because of everything that came before.

I related my spiel before, but a quick recap is called for here. When I meet a client for the first time, I explain what they can expect from me, that I am straight-forward and direct, that I will challenge them, that therapy is hard work, but it is worth it because it works. I go over the limits of confidentiality and emphasize that talk of suicide or self-harm does not mean I’m immediately calling for the guys with white jackets; it means we’re going to have serious conversation. I stress there is a world, a literal life-and-death-world, between a thought and an action. All of this and more is laid out before I get anywhere near those NIMH ASQ-type questions.

This is the way I operate, which is admittedly outside the norm. But, I am relating my technique, if you want to call it that, because as a client, you can steer your therapy onto the same or a similar course. If you try and the therapist doesn’t instantly get on board, you may be better served with a different therapist. Suicide is serious, the most serious topic you can discuss in therapy, but that doesn’t mean it has to be intoned with the stoic reserve of a Puritan minister.

Thoughts of suicide are much more common than most people, therapists and clients alike, care to admit. There are exceptions, of course, particularly amongst those with a strong religious conviction against suicide. Most people have at one point or another in life faced the abyss. Ever dealt with life-altering, blinding, unrelenting pain, physical or emotional? Face the unendurable heartbreak of the death of a loved one? Financial ruin? Nearly every person on the planet has experienced one or more of the above, and had even just a fleeting thought of a permanent escape. The difference between that thought, even one that is not so fleeting, and the decision to act, then the following through with the act is the difference between honesty and self-delusion.

In this very limited sense, thoughts of suicide need to be normalized as merely thoughts. So they are talked about. Still, there is an inherent risk in those thoughts crossing over from this normalization into acceptance; that is the edge of a treacherous, steep slope. But, the alternative is not to talk about it, to keep the mere thought so stigmatized that the very real issues that could be drivers are minimized to the point of being dangerously ignored and unaddressed. That is the oil that makes the slope so slippery, that lets one careless step lead to the ultimate fall.

The real and telling questions are not then the NIMH ASQ’s. The real questions revolve around what is driving those thoughts? That life-and-death-world I refer to exists between the statements,  “I am tired and just can’t do this anymore”, whatever “this” is, or “I’m looking forward to dying someday, hopefully sooner rather than later but certainly before I end up in diapers and forget my own name”, or “I’m done, I don’t have anymore in me and there is no possibility, no hope of it ever getting better”. In the hands of a skilled clinician, particularly one with experience in the veteran or First Responder communities, a desire for a continuation of life can be cultivated in each of those statements.

Each of those are actual statements I’ve heard. None of them ended up with either a voluntary or involuntary commitment. None of them has ended in suicide either. In each case, my task was to understand and respect, and help the client find and understand that driver of desperation. Once recognized, that driver can be put in perspective, even if it takes a lot of metaphorical wrestling and screaming. At that point the client can begin to see, or at least accept for the moment the possibility that hope can exist. Even when they can’t see it. Even when they don’t believe it. Just for the moment. Then the next moment. Then the next, and the next, and the next.

Life is, after all, a series of moments. Many of them we’d rather forget, some we can’t remember, but they all have one thing in common. They happen, then they are in the past and a new moment follows. Then another and another and another. And we can choose, are we the drivers, or are those past moments.

The single biggest reason to normalize talking about suicide is the support and comfort those conversations can offer to those who are on the precipice of that steep, oiled, slippery slope. Letting those who need the words and experiences of others become the tether to the terra firma that exists just one step back may be the all the difference. Just one step back.

If you are struggling, reach out to a buddy or call 988 and press 1 if you want to identify as a veteran. If you are not struggling, reach out and be the buddy to someone else.


Category: Mental Health

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I went through the Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) class twice. I believe it has helped out somewhat for those still serving, as I grew up in an Army where behavioral health issues and suicidal talk or ideation was considered a sign of weakness. I had one squad leader even brag about one of his Soldiers having taken his own life.

I’m no professional, but in my opinion, being upfront and empathetic is key. Trying to dodge the issue at hand, or ignoring warning signs, only enables a suicidal mentality. “No one cares.” “It’s like they won’t even miss me.” “Glad he took that PS5 off my hands, he obviously needed it more than I will.”

There’s usually a triggering event: the Cook in Iraq in ’03 who got a Dear John letter or the Drill Sergeant in my battalion who was facing a court-martial. Sometimes there’s no warning, like with another Drill Sergeant a few months later.

It’s easy to ignore, and I’ve never talked about this, but the way my command handled a suicidal Soldier during my second stint in The Old Guard helped me realize that I needed to get out of that company, and that maybe should seek a little help myself before I got to that point. They did what was required of them, and I took him to the ER, but the level of support that Soldier got from the CO and 1SG, much less the support I got as his PSG trying to help him survive his last few months there, was pitiable.


Interestingly, enough, this will be the extent of my comment on this….
I’ve always said that I’m glad I’m too much of a coward to be suicidal. The same thing with being a drug addict. I couldn’t stick a needle in my own arm, although I think that would change if I was diabetic because I’ve had a friend who is and used to regular give himself insulin shots so, by necessity, I guess, as opposed to recreational purposes.
That being said, in my previous non-soberity, I was in such despair that I at least broached the neighborhood that many live in, from a distance, and can appreciate true mental health crisis.
As my therapist and I laugh about now the fact that I asked for help from a higher power, and got exactly what I asked for, but you are never the one that determines, how you get that help, in my opinion it’s amusing, how things came to pass for me, but trust me they came to Pass and I dealt with my demons, thankfully, with the least amount of consequences possible.
All of that gobbledygook being said, I am acutely aware, and maybe it’s because of my age now of being overly sensitive to any and everybody’s mental health status, and maybe what I’m saying is having gone through the absolute varying edge of what was a bad situation, at least for me, has allowed me to throw the shackles off of what would’ve been embarrassment or shame, or inability to admit addiction.
Wherever that comes from that now, makes me feel comfortable enough to throw my arms wide open to address mental health in an open fashion and realize just how widespread it is in my group of peers for a variety of reasons, mainly based on significantly life altering traumatic experiences. I no longer shy away from what used to be taboo.
Thanks, OAM, as always, for your wisdom, eloquence and effort to pen, such a worthwile piece.


I almost used that exact term. I’m also too much of a coward. Having some fear of death, I’m down to go when it takes me, but I don’t want to look at it in the eyes. I don’t want to know what goes through one’s mind in those final moments, and in the case of a botched attempt, I wouldn’t want to impose on others while healing from grievous injury of my own doing.

Drugs are another thing I fear. I still drink, and for better or worse that’s the only vice I’ve had. Never used tobacco or marijuana, and the only times I’ve had harder drugs were prescription pain meds. On the rare occasion I get those, if I take them at all, a log is kept for the minimum dosage. Many in my family are addicts, and after a day or two on Percoset, Tylox, or other meds, I find myself thinking “I need another, this hurts.” So, I go to the log, see that I took a pill three hours ago, check the bottle and see something like “1-2 pills every 5-6 hours as needed for pain”, and wait another three hours.

Everyone has to find their own path, with the help of both mental health and medical professionals, spirituality, internal and external motivation, and/or other aids.


“in my opinion it’s amusing”

In my opinion a sense of humor and of the absurd is very useful.


Thanks so much for these posts OAM.

9/11 is always a tough day, for many of us. For me, in addition to the obvious, 9 years ago, I lost my best friend of a dog.
This year, I’m very glad to be in class tomorrow to take my mind of both of those, and the fact that just last week, we lost my baby, the most beautiful little pup with eyes that looked into your soul. She’d been a great source of comfort through some tough times, and her sudden and unexpected loss has been very tough to deal with. If asked, right about now, my results as outlined above would definitely be listed as “positive”.. I’m mostly past that part now, having moved on to absolute rage over the situation… don’t know that that’s a good place to be, but it’s where I am.
Knowing there’s good people like you out there to help people in need makes it a little better.



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Bless. She looks like a great pup.


She was the best. Didn’t matter if you were out of the house 5 minutes, or 5 days, she acted like you coming home was the best thing ever..


There was a time in my life, when I was young(er) and stupid(er) when I would have chuckled at your overly sentimental attachment to your canine. Then I “owned” a couple myself, via my wife. As you well know, it is more a case of them owning you. My condolences.


I’m right there with ya Tim, it wasn’t that long ago, I would have had the same reaction.. But now? This loss hits harder than if some of my psychotically liberal siblings had passed.

Thank you


I’m with you too. My 15 year old Shih Tzu is asleep in her own office chair next to me now. Occasional balance issues, cataracts and moderate hearing loss. She only walks about half a block now and she’s tired so we now have a dog stroller from Amazon for our daily 3.5 mile walk.


Mine was supposed to live that long… but only made it to 4.. some auto-immune disease took her in less than a week.. and she seemed almost perfect until the last day…Beautiful little Havanese with a heart of gold..


I raise a glass to Zephee, and to you too, Fyfighter, to Pay Honors to Zephee. I still grieve for every Fur Baby I’ve lost that, like Zephee did for you, helped me thru some hard times. No substitute for the unconditional love that a Good Canine gives. I rest assured that they will all be awaiting me at The Rainbow Bridge. I have saved the ashes of a number of them so that when my time does come, we will be mixed together and fired out of a cannon in various locations that we had been together.

As we all know, Dog is God spelled backwards.


Thanks KoB. I’ve hoisted more than one to her and Boots. I know she’ll appreciate it.

President Elect Toxic Deplorable Racist SAH Neande

Not to steal your thunder, FyrFighter, but it’s been almost a year that “we” (me) lost our mini Schnauzer “Yoda” at 12-13 y.o.
I miss my “pup”.


Condolences on your loss President, definitely no thunder to steal, just sadness to share.. and thanks to everyone else. This was the second pup we lost in a month. The first was Boots, a big Lab / Pyrenees mix that suffered a gastric torsion. He apparently went into the barn after eating breakfast, laid down and died… It’s been a hell of a month… and like I said above, 9 yrs ago today, I lost my buddy Jake..


I always find it interesting,
when a Stolen Valor story turns into a suicide story,
a small number of folks out there
(including more than 1 major malfunction Stolen Valor phony)
want to turn the tables,
blame the websites that expose the phonies,
blame the US Gov’t for releasing FOIA military service records, and
blame the TV and/or newspapers that feature the outed phony,
as if the outed and now embarrassed phony is some kind of innocent victim,
blameless for his years of lying, phonying, and conning others,
blameless for the exposure (of the truth),
blameless for the reaction by society,
and then
blameless for his life (and death) choices afterwards.

Shall I say… it’s so…. Bernathian.


Dan Rowan and Dick Martin called it the Fickle Finger of Fate.
55 years ago.


Once again I really enjoyed your spiel.

My late father-in-law reached the point, a few years ago, after a couple of years of declining physical and mental capabilities, of “I’m done, I don’t have anymore in me and there is no possibility, no hope of it ever getting better”. One day he just decided to die. It took him a couple of weeks but he accomplished what he set out to do and I, for one, cannot say it was a bad or wrong decision. His family had plenty of time to accept the inevitable and say goodbye. In his state just about any method other than starving himself to death was impossible.

Just out of curiosity, do you find there is more thoughts of or acceptance of the idea of suicide among front-line veterans and first responders than in rear echelon veterans? IOW, are those with more familiarity with death and destruction more comfortable with the idea?


timactual -that is an interesting and ongoing discussion. All I can say is anecdotally I’ve seen both sides supported.


His Blessing continue to be upon you, OAM. You are one of His Blessing to us. If you can survive what you have been thru, then so can we survive the trials that life has thrust upon us. You have endeavored and you have persevered, helping others along their path.

Good times, bad times, we’ve all seen our share of both. Whenever I think that I need to have a pity party and give up, I tell my demons that I am stronger than them, tell myself that no matter how bad it seems, someone else is having a worst time of it, and then turn my sympathies toward my Guardian Angel. Now, THAT one has it rough. Much admiration, respect, and yes, love to you Mi’Lady.

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KoB- mine drinks. A lot.


I say that my guardian angels, either have white or gray hair or are completely bald.
You guys just got one guardian angel???
LMFAO… they had to assign me a crew🤭😜


Jus’ sayin’

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I’m not in a position to help others right now, but should I be, how/whom do I contact which can connect me with someone who needs an ear? My Vietnam experience gave me a lot of insight as to how to work through a rough mental period. Having a firm religious belief was my key.

I greatly enjoy your articles for your common sense approach to helping others.


Trust, truth, faith, sharing.

These are things that are not easily gained and given by those who are troubled. True friends can be hard to come by and if there is no one that the person can trust enough to talk to it becomes harder still.

Without faith it is easy to slip into a nihilistic outlook on life. The more nihilistic, the more they get consumed by substance abuse and other self destructive behaviors. It is never just one thing.


Veteran culture? You mean being proud of having gone to war and done one’s duty– or even heroically kicked enemy ass– instead of apologetic or safely “scarred” about the experience so left/libtards who didn’t go don’t feel like cowards? (If so, I’m in.)

Skivvy Stacker

That’s why I stopped going to the VA for psych help.
Any answer other than “NO” would put you into confinement until they could “cure” you. And you would be banned from all kinds of freedoms for the rest of your life, as well as be looked at askance by every doctor, nurse, or orderly in the VA System ever after.
There was no such think as being able to say; “sometimes I wish I was no longer here”, or “I wish I could just die for a while”, or “I’m so tired of life”. Even though that is mainly how I feel much of the time. Even a person who is suicidal doesn’t necessarily want to die, they just want the pain to be gone. But you can’t fix that by expecting that person to tell you the truth with the result being that they’ll be locked up.


They tell you don’t do drugs or get arrested because that’ll ruin your life, but to “talk to someone” will do the same thing. WTF?


I avoided Behavioral Health (BH) in the Army for this same reason. Fortunately, I never got to the point where I was suicidal, but I was definitely self-destructive. Even so, give a “wrong” answer and your career is effectively over. Back in 2009 or so, USAREC released a video about “fighting the stigma” about seeking help. A bunch of senior NCOs and officers were in it, talking about how they had positive experiences.

When I finally did seek help five years ago, it was part experiment and part test. The experiment was trying to wind my way through the system and leave the toxic environment leadership I had at the time without losing my personal freedom. The test was with that toxic leadership and my unit’s willingness to support a Senior NCO who needed help.

I can say that the Army has some good programs, and that it’s true that anyone can fall victim to themselves and bad habits. I can also attest to the fact that even the most unsupportive and toxic leaders are forced to act like they support you. I went to BH nearly at the breaking point. I was visibly shaking from anxiety, had stopped eating and conducting basic hygiene on a regular basis, and spent 0400-1930 or so at work daily trying to take care of Soldiers that were assigned to my platoon but treated as communal personal property of the company.

The month or two before going into Outpatient, I was treated like a ghost. My PL and replacement were cool, but I might as well have been dead to the company leadership. My Soldiers understood, some of them had ideations and many were overworked, underappreciated, and just plain tired.


Outpatient had a disproportionate number of Old Guard Soldiers in it. Ranger-qualified, officer, enlisted, NCO, even a Chief Warrant, it didn’t matter. When the program is offered to all services in the National Capitol Region and nearly 1/4 of patients come from one Regiment, there might be a problem.

I did the wrong thing and continued drinking, cutting down a lot. First it was near beer. Then just a couple of regular beers. I got caught, sweet talked my way into staying in the program, and even got recommended for another couple of weeks in the Executive Track. I was referred to ASAP, but since I left TOG shortly after I never followed up and never heard anything from them. Oops. Guess I didn’t lead by example. Maybe nearly five years later they’ll find me…

For obvious reasons, I’ll try to avoid specifics, but the Executive Track saw a smaller group, with me being the only one from TOG. We had a few senior NCOs, and MAJs and above. One participant was an SF-qualified GO. It gets real, and even the most respected of qualifications and ranks don’t make us immune from personal and behavioral issues.

I doubt I’ll ever use VA for this stuff though. I’ll probably get insurance through my employer to supplement Tricare, and I don’t want to risk anything being reported or me being treated as anything other than who I am. A human with human flaws.

Oh, and for this same reason, I only told anyone remotely what I drink twice in my career. During a Periodic Health Assessment, I mentioned I had something like 5-6 drinks 2-3 times a week. I was looked at like I was Jack Daniels himself and told I needed to seek help. During my mid-tour assessment on the Trail, I told them I had around the same amount and was referred to the psychologist. I told him what I knew, and he treated me like a big boy, telling me that referring me to ASAP wouldn’t teach me anything I didn’t already know.


I was once told (by a nurse who does the intake forms for ASAP) that standing practice is to assume the patient underrepresents their alcohol intake and the protocol is to assume it’s double the claim.

ASAP, itself, is essentially a cookie-cutter course on the standard MADD lecture on the dangers of alcohol and a set period of abstinence….

I’m not a fan of Alcoholics Anonymous, personally, but their system is at least an organized and systematic approach to the problem. It also has the added benefit of at least trying to remain anonymous. Anecdotally, at least, it seems to produce better results than the VA program that attempts to parrot it. Success rate estimates vary from 57% (short-term and ignoring several mitigating factors), but it’s free and anonymous and might be worth a try. From what you’ve said, it’s probably not for you. Again, I’m no advocate, but it might be worth the try.

One alternative that’s fought its way into the conversation in recent years is a “controlled drinking” approach – most of these rely on willpower and motivation to only drink in the situations most beneficial to you (a glass of wine when eating a fancy dinner, two beers when with friends at a sporting event or while camping, one beer after the gym, etc.). Other approaches actually use specific drugs to ween one off drinking by disrupting the biochemically-appealing qualities of alcohol – the social/time-killing benefits are still there, but the physically addictive properties are not, allowing one to focus on the aspects that really matter. These alternatives are underdog approaches, as the powers that be are still fully on the side of Team-AA – but alternatives do exist.


That should read: “[AA success] rate estimates vary from 57% (short-term and ignoring several mitigating factors)…”



Should read… “57%…”

What is wrong with the algorithm that those numbers are being removed from my comment?


Let’s try this again, as any time I try to edit a post, I’m “posting too quickly…”

…estimates vary from [less-than symbol]5% to [greater-than symbol]57%…”


Well damn, I didn’t outsmart the system. 😄

I’ve personally found that just staying engaged and active helps me tremendously. I’m not a fan of taking time to go someplace I don’t want to be that will tell me stuff I already know. The support might be nice, but as an introvert with some extrovert qualities, I would either clam up or try to make it all about me. Maybe that’s the intent.

This weekend, for example, I’m fairly busy preparing to take guardianship over a nephew who’s still in diapers. I’ve been in stall mode since shortly after my retirement became official, working and coming home to watch YouTube and drink my preferred poison. Over the past few days, I’ve drank fairly little, cleaning out clutter and getting rid of stuff while gradually consolidating a massive tool collection. I’ve got a shed coming next week for a workshop, a big dumpster in the driveway, and just don’t have the time. Even today, when I’ve obviously spent far too much time on this site, I’ve drank maybe 1/3 of what I normally do.

I drink a lot and think it’s probably about as much about the habit of consuming fluids as it is about the alcohol in many of those fluids. When I make the conscious effort to drink less, I end up drinking 2 gallons of unsweet tea a day. When I stay busy, I probably drink at least a gallon of water while not even thinking about a drink.

Or I’m in denial. Or something. I’ll FITFO one of these days. 😀


My struggle with the censors notwithstanding, it sounds like you know what you need to do, at least in part (not that I have any answers, either, but I stumbled backwards into E-8 despite being the biggest thorn-in-the-side of every officer I ever met – so I’ve some experience with recovery).

In those moments where you can’t stay busy, it’s a matter of if can you handle a few drinks or if that will turn into a dozen you really don’t want. Also, one gives up a lot more than booze when they quit booze (it truly is a “social lubricant”).

It sounds like drinking alone is something you like to do…. Not being a proponent of abstinence, I’d recommend learning how to cook a few dishes with the booze you normally drink alone and having to cook one of those in order to “earn” a drink to enjoy with it. No guarantees, but it ties the drinking to some activity beyond itself. I love to cook and can adapt several recipes to your booze and available ingredients if you want to try it.


I wouldn’t object to recipes, but I’m rarely alone these days. My career saw me turn into George Thoroughgood Lite, since my wife was a caretaker for her parents. It was me and old Bark Obama (not his real name, but a nickname my Black Lab picked up in 2014, when I lived in a Hinesville trailer park and had to tie him out on occasion). Now there’s the wife, three kids, two dogs, a cat, a hedgehog, and the soon-to-arrive nephew. Also, I’m the primary cook and cleaning person, though my wife’s banned me from doing any of hers or our collective laundry. I guess I have a habit of throwing her comforter in the washer five minutes before she wants to go to bed… Back to cooking; as the heat wave dies down and I get stuff set up like it needs to be, I’ll be doing a lot of that. I prefer outdoor cooking, and before retirement would host family get-togethers with 20+ people, even during the COVID lockdown (take that Fauci, although I was sensitive enough to peoples’ health that I had plenty of gloves and sanitizer). In 2020 I fried eight turkeys, three for the meal and five more for people to take home. Back in the aforementioned trailer park I was getting into the science of smoking meat. Now, thanks to work, I’ve got a $500 pellet grill I paid $125 for which needs to be assembled and a $400 Blackstone griddle I got on clearance for $150. I’ll probably pick up a Cajun-style outdoor fryer for fish, and chicken, and I guess it’s already time to shop for oil and a new turkey frying setup. Then we have boiling. The most I’ve done was 45 pounds of shrimp years ago (in Real Feel 17-degree weather in VA, so it took a while to get the boil going), and I have yet to try my hand at crawfish. Long story short, send me your recipes if you can. My alcohol-infused cooking has so far been mostly limited to beer can chicken. Therapy and addiction… Read more »


Are you primarily a beer drinker?


No, I’m cheap and beer makes me fat, so Seagrams 7 is my go to.


Oh! Whisky is a great ingredient when cooking. I make a Scotch & pine nut risotto that would work just as well with Canadian rot-gut. I actually prefer it over the traditional saffron version. Risotto isn’t the easiest thing to make, but I’ll gladly share my recipe.

More, I’d just focus on deglazing a pan with your whisky – it doesn’t take much and captures all the flavor that would normally be left behind as a starter for sauces or marinades. It also makes the pans easier to clean.


Yeah, well it’s gotten worse now. Tell any doctor you have a couple of beers with dinner a once a week and they’re wanting to refer you into a program. Yet, when I went through a 5-year period where I didn’t touch a drop, if I mentioned zero drinks they thought I was lying. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.


Just don’t take my damn coffee.



Thank you for this. While I don’t have nearly the credentials or experience as you with this particular subject matter, I was able to help a handful of such struggling soldiers while still in uniform and I did it with a similar approach of bucking the bureaucratic protocol.

It was purely because they trusted me not to run straight up the chain of command that these joes were willing to even approach me for discuss their struggles. I listened to them as individuals rather than as some checklist to mark off, and all eventually found their way to whatever treatment was best for them – all are still with us and thriving, today, and two are still wearing the uniform with pride.

Please keep doing exactly what you’re doing.


As Mailclerk, I was the center of a wide-spread grape-web. People told me the most amazing stuff while leaning on my half-door, or while they held a poncho over me as I passed out mail in the field.

And sometimes it was about something truly F-ed up. And usually I could get that soldier talking to the right person, either chain or Chaplain.

Never dreamed anything like that was part of the job. Humbled I managed to defuse some seriously bad stuff.

Old tanker

Several decades ago while going through a really nasty divorce where the ex was threatening to take my son away so I could not have contact with him I got depressed. I never considered eating my gun but since my civilian job was as a Cop I found myself thinking it wouldn’t bother me if some one took me out on some call. That did wake me up and I took advantage of some counseling to get myself straightened out

It cost me a lot of money and a lot of aggravation but I was able to keep joint custody.


Was a career Soldier, Enlisted, Commisioned, again Enlisted. Finished with a couple tours n Iraq and finally retired as O3E. Was no big deal. After last deployment I did a self referral. To this day, dont exactly know why. So was prescribed 8 wks of counseling, they were all concerned bout the suicide (had 5 Friends do it). Command wasnt happy but everyone supported it.
With counselling, come to find out it wasnt so much related to Iraq, etc. But was instead more related to bein a Medic/Nurse. While time off away from deployments. These were thoughts that were compartmentalized, to be able to function in those enviroments/situations.
Glad I did it, and even an 0-6 Buddy at BDE, said he was Glad I did it, instead of “Suckin it up an Drivin on”.
I dont see myself as no hero, if anyone is… Its my wife who raised Good Citizens while I was a Soldier. I thank God every day for her in my life.
I guess I just want to say, as a Nurse, a Medic, as a First Responder. Seek out the help. Its not a weakness. Its just bein a human being. Thankyou OAM for what you write. Sorry for your loss. Me an th Chaplain knocked on a few doors. An honor but th toughest job I ever did. Again I thank my God and family for giving me th strength. So OAM, stay strong, keep doin what you do. And above all, Be Safe.

Name edited.