By Emily Glory Peters
Some may view tears as a sign of weakness. To United States veteran Greg Schwabe, former Green Beret, it’s one of respect.
“For me, Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day are in a way even more important than the Fourth of July,” he says. “We wouldn’t have the Fourth to celebrate if it weren’t for the sacrifices of veterans.”
A Boston native now living in Los Angeles, Schwabe’s military journey began when he enlisted in 1989, spending the next two decades working as a special operative in counter-terrorism and counter-intelligence, even supporting the FBI during their investigation of the Oklahoma City Bombing in 1995. As he rose through the ranks, his service took him around the globe—making his return to the states in 2009 a turbulent experience.
“I had trouble re-acclimating to civilian life. In Boston, I lived in a high-rise next to Massachusetts General Hospital, just three blocks away from a veteran homeless shelter,” he recalls. “It would break my heart to see veterans—our national treasure—struggling on the streets.”
His involvement with what he calls his “brotherhood” started with donating to the shelter, then volunteering—and after relocating to Los Angeles (Schwabe acts, produces and serves as a military advisor for TV and film), he now uses the entertainment industry as a platform to assist vets, too.
That assistance is critical. As Schwabe personally acknowledges after being diagnosed last year, post-traumatic stress has become an epidemic—suicide takes the lives of approximately 22 US veterans and/or servicemen and women every day.
It’s a sobering truth in light of Memorial Day and Mental Health Month, giving all a chance to reflect not only on those who have fallen in combat, but in its aftermath. Yet there is hope.
“While the military has done many things to help bridge that gap between service and civilian life, there’s so much that’s not touched upon. That’s one of the reasons why I’m associated with Mission 22,” says Schwabe. “It’s a nonprofit doing great work to raise suicide awareness and is proactive about intervening with soldiers and veterans before they reach that point.”
Through counseling, Schwabe has since begun his own path to healing—including some incredibly bright spots, like getting married last year and welcoming a new baby boy with wife Sue this past March. As he takes on these roles as husband, father, entrepreneur, advocate, volunteer, he recognizes that it’s his duty to do his best to thrive.
“For years, psychological support for soldiers on active duty and veterans was nonexistent. Now, there’s more information and training to identify problems—but there’s ground to cover,” he says. “By asking for help and taking strides to live well, we can honor those who have gone before us.”
To support those you love whose lives have been touched by military service, explore the resources available through the VA and nonprofits like Mission 22, Wellness Works, Give an Hour and many others.