Twenty-two veterans a day take their own life. They fall victim to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) because they struggle to reintegrate into the civilian lifestyle once they come back from war. Everyday occurrences, like a pan falling or plane flying above, can take them back to being in a war zone. Those small, everyday things can be detrimental for America's veterans. And for some, it can send them over the edge.
That's what happened to Michael Preston, a man who spent a combined 20 years as a Marine and police officer. He silently struggled with PTSD that comes with serving our nation. That's when he decided to take his own life.
When Michael took his own life, that inspired his brother, John Preston, a former Marine himself and current firefighter, to truly battle the epidemic that haunts our servicemen and women. John used his love of music to talk about the difficulties service members face when coming home and the silent killer: PTSD.
"I'm a Marine. We will die on the battlefield a thousand times before we’re captured and taken. We’ll swing to the last breath. That’s where I am. That’s who I am as a person. That’s why my drive is what it is. That’s why I won’t stop," Preston told Townhall.
Preston wanted to start a conversation about the struggles veterans face when they come home, especially with the lack of support they receive once they return stateside.
"I have learned not to be afraid to say, 'I've got a problem,'" Preston. "I've struggled with PTSD and alcoholism."
That's when he began writing his latest single, "Before I am gone."
"I wrote the song three-and-a-half years ago. I had to take myself back to that place, to the one to two years in the service where I struggled to want to be alive. There were times where I felt the world would be better off without me," Preston said.
He hopes his music will reach people who are struggling.
“This is my way of helping to save as many lives as possible. I hope that my songs inspire people to give life a second chance, to see that it is not all hopeless and that there is cause for hope," Preston said.
He said he knows he's making a difference because he receives one to two messages a month from a veteran who has been saved by his music, something he never knew was possible before he began receiving random messages on Facebook.
Preston said he continually sees the impact of his music with these messages, where he's only been able to save one person in the six years he has been a firefighter.
Although he hopes his song inspires people to keep fighting, Preston wants to see legislators in Washington make considerable changes to help veterans when they come home from places like Iraq and Afghanistan.
"We need to change how the VA operates by making it more proactive instead of reactive," Preston said. "There are millions of nonprofits out there. The VA is the first line of treatment. How do we effectively work on one, the VA and the system itself and two, the transition for the military person? The transition is tough. You go from being told what to do, what to eat, where to go, to 'welcome to America.' Let's work on the transition. We can do simple things, like what's already being done of getting people into college before they get out."