North Dakota soldier arrived with suicide, and is now spreading his message to other veterinarians

North Dakota soldier arrived with suicide, and is now spreading his message to other veterinarians

DWIGHT, N.D. – Add the random idea to the Sgt. Nathan Griffin had none that night before, but his life ended.

Then there were 22 National Guard Guards of North Dakota suffering nightmares and high anxiety from his return from attendance in Iraq. Griffin was living hundreds of miles away from his family. He was drinking alcohol from morning to night, finally for days.

He put a loading pistol on his head when he was breaking. Suddenly, that idea came – how selfish are you?

He broke down, crying.

“I'm not a selfish man, so he put my heart on me,” said Griffin.

Recently he shared those dark times, and how he got around them, at the Dwight, N.D.

Others like Griffin are not so lucky.

The old soldiers die by suicide at a higher rate than the general public, according to Department of Veterinary Affairs statistics of the Department.

Approximately 30 out of every 100,000 US soldiers took their own lives in 2016, compared to around 17 per 100,000 of the general population.

Other stories in this series:

Griffin, now 33 years old, is still in the Gardaí, and works as a deputy, volunteer firefighter and part-time police officer of Richland County at North Dakota State Science College in Wahpeton.

He considers that the pistol he had once carried out was very much remembered how far he had come.

A total of 6,079 US soldiers completed their lives in 2016, the latest year for which statistics are available, up from 5,797 in 2005.

However, in this region the number of suicides has changed in the period 2005 to 2016, with no clear trends shown.

In North Dakota, over that period, less than 10 a year was involved in a veteran suicide to as much as 22 a year. In Minnesota, the number of veteran suicides ranged from a low of 77 high of 112.

The Fargo VA Medical Center has made suicide prevention a key priority. Anyone who calls the facility has an immediate voice message that directs them to a veterans crisis line if they have suicidal thoughts.

Angela Collins, chief executive of Fargo VA of the team for mental health, said the team aims to identify early soldiers at risk of suicide. At present, some 70 old soldiers in their “catchments” area, including most of North Dakota and 17 counties in northwest Minnesota, have been presented with high risk suicide flags by the facility, stretching from County Traverse to Woods County Woods. .

The VA follows the veterans closer, and the high risk flag will show their medical record, whenever and wherever they seek treatment, Collins said.

“We regularly review all these flags to ensure they are always needed. We want them to mean something, ”she said.

Griffin was accepted and has seven brothers and sisters. He grew up in Richland County in the small town of Dwight, about 10 miles northwest of Wahpeton, where he attended school.

His interest in the military was promoted by looking at the terrorist attacks of 11 September, 2001, which are launched on class television. “I think I lit a fire deep down inside the place where I wanted to do something not only for the public, I wanted to do something more,” Griffin said.

After graduating in high school in 2006, he joined the National Guard of North Dakota. In early 2008, he went to Iraq as part of the 19th century Military Police Company of Fargo. The unit's mission was to train Iraqi police, patrol, gather information and search roads and vehicles for improvised explosive devices.

Shortly after their arrival, a rocket attack struck a base in Sadr City. “That kind of nodded slightly, like‘ Oh, this is true, ”said Griffin.

The unit dealt with a ritual sniper and with some ambush.

Griffin's job was filled as a driver with nerve and adrenaline-filled moments. With design, he meant that he could not help other soldiers in scirmish, but he had to wait for the vehicle, ensuring that he and the convoy was safe.

“You think you're unhappy and hopeless without power,” said Griffin.

Another incident involved gun guns in the distance, and the Iraqi children followed later minutes running, carrying limp, homeless bodies of the other children. The soldiers were trained not to intervene to protect their own safety in the event of a trap.

Later, Griffin had a recurring nightmare where he is standing on a river bank, watching a river flowing over him.

Griffin knows that the situation may have been much worse, and that others were much worse. There were acute injuries and calls, but none of the North Dakota unit lost their lives in Iraq.

Still, after returning home, he had vivid nightmares so often, they were etched in his brain, like memories.

He said that he had tried to talk to family members and friends about what he had done, but he did not understand that he had understood it. He tried to deal with nightmares and other emotional baggage by avoiding and drinking alcohol.

Griffin decided to move to Iowa with a friend, thinking he could give him a fresh start. He did not have a job or a place to live, so he slept on a storage shed floor for a while.

“I was closing – I played video games or watched movies. And I drink all day, and then I went to the bar at night, ”said Griffin.

During this period, he was still driving west and west to North Dakota once a month to take part in Garda weekend drills – the only location where he felt normal.

He shared his thoughts about suicide with a soldier, who told him he had not thought about such things. He also asked a military military hotline a few times, but he never said unsuccessfully.

“I didn't know what was happening that it was too late,” said Griffin.

Griffin said that the night he took his own life was almost on another night, first.

He was alone, drunk and feeling exhausted – mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. “You just want to finish it all,” he said.

He asked the military military hotline, but hung her up after waiting for 45 minutes.

At a glance, Griffin caught a loaded pistol that kept him in bed. He raised it to the side of his head, and then hit him a random idea, “How are you selfish?”

He thought about other service members who lost their lives serving their country. “And am I going to do this? How is this being respected? ”He thought.

He knocked the gun down and began baking.

“I'm selfish. That's the answer I gave to my question that I have been asking myself for months. And that's changed my life, ”said Griffin.

He went out, woke up the next day and started planning a better path.

Nathan Griffin spends time with his son, Liam, and dogs in his house in Dwight, N.D. David Samson / The Forum

Nathan Griffin spends time with his son, Liam, and dogs in his house in Dwight, N.D. David Samson / The Forum

One of Griffin's first things was to get a dog for himself, which made him sense. He also asked a friend to give a gun for a while.

Tammy Monsebroten, the co-ordinator of the Fargo VA suicide program, said he would move wisely because 67% of the old soldiers who die through suicide use a gun, and 90% of those who use a gun in an effort. suicide.

The VA provides cable-free locks for veterans, and it encourages veterans who are at risk of committing suicide and distance between themselves and a gun, Monsebroten said. “If we can reduce this opportunity for someone to choose a firearm for suicide, we can reduce the amount of our deaths,” she said.

As well as finding a new home for his gun, Griffin tried to reduce alcohol consumption and drive a job half. But it was not just a means of improvement, in any way.

With long hours on the road as a truck driver, he was always thinking of the world. He made his anxiety worse, and started the bad things that happened in Iraq playing like a loop in his head.

He was driving and, a few hours later, I realized he was in a different state, not thinking about how he got there. “You are fighting in war in your own head,” said Griffin.

The main difference was to share his experience, both in individual therapy and in therapy groups.

“The more you talk about, the better it gets. And that's the truth, ”he said.

Sgt. This photograph shows Nathan Griffin with his own Alicia Kania. Special to the Forum

Sgt. This photograph shows Nathan Griffin with his own Alicia Kania. Special to the Forum

Fargo VA co-ordinator has left one suicide prevention coordinator around a couple of years ago with four full-time employees tasked with ensuring that ex-soldiers at risk of suicide receive “enhanced care,” he said. Monsebroten.

Old soldiers could be screened for that risk when they first come for primary care or for compensation and pension examination.

As some ex-soldiers at risk of suicide are not registered in the VA health care system, Monsebroten said that the VA tries to seek friends, family members, churches and employers to watch out for warning signs.

The highest risk of suicide of older people is 90 days or so after their military discharge, she said. Some, such as Griffin, experience difficulties in revising civilian life.

Subsequently, the risk of suicide decreases to about 25 years after its release, then the risk begins to rise again, Monsebroten said. Her theory is that people have more time to think about problems they have been able to defend when they are raising children and working when they retire.

It encourages those at risk to have a safety plan in place including emergency phone numbers and advance copying tools, including smart phone apps for deep breath and reflection.

Online Veterans Crisis is available for phone calls, texts or online conversations – and not only is a person feeling suicidal. He says that some veterinarians wanted to talk about their nightmares, financial issues or a breakdown in relationships.

Sometimes they fear that they will be accepted by police or paramedics, she said. Indeed, only about 25% of those calling on the crisis line have been referred to the VA, and only a rest program is needed for the rest and no follow-up is necessary.

Ten years ago, the VA had one national call center. Now there are three of them. When Griffin was feeling suicidal and unable to proceed on the phone, he was a military hotline – not a VA call center – he was calling, he said.

Since the launch of the first VA call center in 2007, crisis line respondents answered more than 3.5 million calls, according to the VA.

In the 10 years since Griffin returned from Iraq, he is married, had a child, divorced, he moved from Iowa back to North Dakota and found his son's full custody, and continued to work through his demons.

His recovery means that he is still here in this world – to marry again and raise his boyfriend.

It means he can play with two family dogs and look after the chickens in the back of the backyard.

It means that Sgt. Griffin, who has a veteran of 13 years, can still attend weekend drills and volunteer to train members of his unit, one of his favorite things.

And, it's still here to share his experiences with fellow-seniors.

Griffin believes that God has given him these tests in life because they will do it stronger, and that he will be used to help others. He recently started speaking publicly, speaking to groups of older people and suicide prevention conferences.

The pistol he once hated – the one he used his own life almost – now part of the uniform he spends on his campus police job, and is still a powerful symbol for him.

“This is a reminder of where I was, and when I don't want to be again,” said Griffin.


Military veterans in crisis can call the Veterans Crisis Online at 1-800-273-8255 and press 1.

Chat online at or text to 838255.

Leave a comment

Send a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.