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Unlocking the Vault: Stories From Veterans & Their Families

We Are Recovery: An Inside Look

This Veterans Day, SAFE Project honors the courage and dedication of our nation’s service members, past and present. We also honor the commitment and sacrifice of our military families who have been supporting all those that serve while also keeping our homefront running smoothly.

Mental health and substance use challenges have plagued our veterans. In fact, a veteran is currently twice as likely to die from an accidental overdose than any other member of society. Despite this fact, very few prevention programs exist to prepare service members or their families for the emotional pressures and stressors of military service, or for the transition back from the military.

Sometimes, resources exist to help members of the military force. However, they also face the overwhelming barrier of stigma. Whether from fear of retribution and punishment, or a ‘suck it up and be strong’ attitude, there is little done to address the issues our military communities face.

In our Unlocking the Vault: Stories from Veterans and their Families series, SAFE Project highlights a group of brave service members, veterans and family members who have given us an inside look into their mental health challenges, battles with addiction, and their hope for the future.

Stories From Veterans & Their Families

Veteran / Service Member Stories


I think I’ve always felt called to serve in the military. My father served in Vietnam, so patriotism and service came pretty naturally in my family. It didn’t help that school wasn’t really my strong suit. I was the stereotypical class clown and always pushed the limits. Then, I lost my best friend to suicide and another to a car accident. The trauma and those demons continue to follow me.

Read Ryan’s Story


For forty years, I pushed away any thoughts of my time in Vietnam. I focused on my family, my job, my “normal” life, and would laugh off my Army days when questioned by friends or family. It wasn’t until I retired at 65 that I began to talk about it all.

Read William’s Story


I’ve signed up for seminars through Wounded Warrior Project 4 times. Every time I tell myself I’m going to go, but I honestly don’t know if I am ready to get the help I need.

Read James’ Story

Army Sgt. C. Lopez:

I know there are programs to help out there. I looked at the SAFE Project website and I know there are resources for me. I’m not dumb and I know how to Google to search for resources available to me. But if I come forward, what will that mean for my future?

Read Sgt. Lopez’s Story


Our son Ari lost his battle to substance use on August 21, 2019. He was 23 years old and serving on active duty in the Army. We had no indication our son was under the influence, or harming himself in any way. But his Army leadership knew.

Read Ari’s Story


My son Daniel lost his life to a massive infection compounded by complications of chronic heroin use. Daniel’s abuse started shortly after a yearlong deployment to Afghanistan. This deployment caused post traumatic stress and other mental health struggles for Daniel. He started using while in college as part of the Army’s prestigious Green to Gold enlisted-to-officer program. Daniel’s battle ultimately led to an official discharge from the Army.

Read Daniel’s Story

Family Member Stories


In January of 2020 I lost my 12-year-old son to suicide. I’d like to think I’m pretty open and honest about my loss and the grieving process that my family continues to experience since we lost Sawyer. Talking about Sawyer definitely helps. He was kind and he always worried about his friends and their well-being. He was helpful with his younger siblings and we had a great relationship.

Read Amanda’s Story


I think it’s so easy for people to forget the sacrifices military spouses make with this lifestyle. My ex-husband and I were both active-duty Air Force, but I decided to give up my career to care for our children, and so his career could advance. I knew giving it up would be hard, but man, was it hard.

Read Jaqueline’s Story


Sometimes I think about what my life would be like if we were a normal family. Normal jobs, living in a normal neighborhood, just normal stuff. I am 18 years old and have lived in 7 different states. California has been my favorite place, but it’s also where I’ve struggled the most, I think.

Read Sophie’s Story


All I ever knew was Army life. I grew up an Army “brat” and married at 18. Deployments happened all the time and, even though I thought I was ready for them, I wasn’t prepared.

Read Ashley’s Story

Take the #NoShame Pledge

SAFE Project believes there’s No Shame in getting help or in talking about mental health and addiction. Join us in creating a nationwide movement by “signing” our pledge to combat negative public perception and support others in speaking up about their own disorders.

Take the pledge below to support the ability to get help without judgement and receive your certificate in acknowledgement of your commitment to saving lives by fighting the stigma.

Take the No Shame Pledge And Help Stop the Stigma:

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