This article was previously published in VA News.
Shortly after my transition from the Marines, I was lost, separated from the structure of service and battling my invisible wounds. I soon found myself homeless on the streets of San Antonio grappling with a range of issues. My relationships with my buddies and family crumbled, and I was overcome by anger and despair.
In my darkest hour, a fellow Marine learned of my situation and extended a lifeline. His family welcomed me, ensured my safety and provided the caring support I desperately needed. Their compassion and understanding gave me the foundation on which to rebuild my life. I credit my “buddy” and his family for helping me find my way back from the edge.
The experience underscored the tremendous power of having a buddy in a Veteran’s life. A buddy isn’t just a comrade from your time in service; a buddy is a friend, a confidant and a source of steady support. When the world feels like it’s collapsing around you, a buddy is there to offer a helping hand and a listening ear.
As we approach VA’s “Buddy Check Week” on Oct. 16 to 20, it’s essential to recognize the profound impact that such friendships can have on the well-being of our fellow Veterans. It’s not just about ensuring that Veterans have someone to talk to; it’s about acknowledging that life’s journey after service can be chaotic, traumatic and unpredictable—and that all of us need a helping hand at times.
One of the most challenging aspects of my journey was acknowledging that I needed help. The military teaches us resilience and perseverance and to face adversity head-on. While these qualities are invaluable, they can also lead us to believe that seeking help is a sign of weakness. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. Asking for help is truly a sign of strength, a sign of how well we really know ourselves.
My journey revealed that it took me immense courage to ask for help. It’s not a sign of weakness. It’s a testament to my strength and determination to overcome the challenges life throws me. A buddy is someone who understands this, stands by your side and endures this battle with you without judgment because they know you would do the same for them.
During Buddy Check Week, let’s all take a moment to reach out to our fellow Veterans, check on them and remind them that they are not alone. The week is an opportunity to strengthen the bonds that were forged in military service and to extend a hand of friendship to those who may be struggling and unwilling to ask for help. We must let each other know we are all still in the same fight together.
We must also remember that buddies aren’t just for Veterans. They’re for all of us. We all face difficulties in life, and we all need someone to lean on from time to time. The power of a buddy cannot be overstated. Buddies are the lifelines that keep us afloat during life’s storms.
No one really does life on their own. So don’t hesitate to be that buddy for someone in need, and don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.
Buddies should be aware of helpful resources such as Check-In, where we can access mental or brain-health services at no cost. Connect With Peers offers ways to connect with lots of buddies through organizations such as Team RWB, Travis Manion Foundation and others.
Let’s celebrate the strength that comes from leaning on one another and the courage it takes to ask for help when it’s needed most. It’s OK to rely on your buddies and to be a buddy in return. Together, we can navigate life’s challenges and emerge stronger on the other side.