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Chapman: Support of veterans needed daily

By Staff | Nov 14, 2014

Despite all of the uplifting and heart-warming stories that surround Veterans Day, for many the day is a difficult reminder of the costs of war.

For two days each year, the country does a nice job of showing support for fallen heroes, veterans and the armed forces. But for much of the year, we don’t do enough to support those willing to make the ultimate sacrifice.

We constantly see news of how the government has failed the veterans in this way or that. It can be frustrating, and even heart-wrenching, to see countless politicians claim to care when they’re actions often fall short.

The politicking personally irks me because I often think of an old roommate and friend – Sgt. Stephen Nathanael Kistner.

Nate, also known as “Toops” to his good friends, was a combat veteran of the War on Terror. He was the youngest of 15 children. He took his own life on Sept. 8, 2012, at the age of 22.

Nate was returning to his education at James Madison University when we randomly became roommates. I graduated a few months earlier, but returned to Harrisonburg, Va., to work at the local newspaper. I was working a 9 to 5; Nate was busy juggling his responsibilities as a student, member of the Army National Guard and tenacious competitor on the rugby team.

We didn’t get to hang out as much as I wish we had. He spent many weekends away at rugby tournaments or serving his country in the guard. He was proud of his service despite the mental scars the war left him with, and continued to serve while receiving an education.

I felt unprepared to provide support and shied away from asking questions. Nate spent hours locked in his room or bathroom to self-medicate.

He was always respectful, though, and found great comfort in his German Shepherd puppy and friends.

The topic of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder came up one night as we sat around. I asked Nate if he thought he suffered from PTSD. He believed so, but said telling a superior was not an option. He was deployed at 19 years old. Unsure how his education would play out and if a long military career should be his future, Nate said advancement in the military was highly unlikely if he expressed concern about his mental health.

I couldn’t imagine. I couldn’t come close to imagining the pain he was experiencing.

Nate was owed better. All veterans are owed better. Unfortunately, we can’t rely on the government or military to always set our veterans up with resources to succeed. Awareness of PTSD is way up since the war started, but change takes time. Nate surely wasn’t the only veteran with the hesitancy of seeking help.

We have veterans in our community and each one is unique. Some may share Nate’s feeling, others may not, but each life is precious. If you are friends with or family of a veteran, be aware of the struggles he or she may have. Lend an ear if that is what the veteran needs. Lend your brain, if it means looking up programs and resources available to veterans.

Nate should not have felt the way he did about seeking help. No veteran should feel that way.

Nate, I know you’re in a better place and away from the pain. Wish you could visit and get a rugby game going in Rugby, North Dakota. Rest in peace, brother.

Great career ends

Before coming to Rugby, I was used to covering a variety of high schools and seeing different groups of kids each week. With only one high school in the county, we primarily cover Rugby High School. If schedules don’t conflict, I’m able to take in a TGU game. It’s nice to talk to different kids and support teams that mean a lot to a smaller group of subscribers.

Dating back to my days at the Minot Daily News, I’ve been able to cover TGU standout Eli Luna, who plays baseball and runs track for RHS.

Luna’s prolific football career ended last week in a semifinal loss at Shiloh Christian in Bismarck. If you do this job long enough, it is easy to overlook the customary season-ending tears.

This time, I was reminded of how hard many high school athletes work to reach their goals. Eli is one of those student-athletes. He never took a play off and often left his teammates in awe. Even in defeat, which was rare, Eli answered questions like a gentleman. Kudos to this young man for setting a great example.

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