Veteran Suicide Hits Home for Founder of Veteran Outreach Program
NBC 2 News
By: Chris DiMaria
Mar 13, 2020
"It broke me down. It broke me down bad. Because I was thinking to myself, if I can't even help my own cousin, how can I help my fellow veterans? I felt like a failure, I felt angry, because why didn't he reach out to me?" Lezama wondered.
MUSKOGEE, Okla. — A Green Country veteran, hoping to save the lives of his fellow vets, was hit by tragedy when he learned his cousin had taken his own life.
Victor Lezama spent 10 years in the Army and 10 years in the Marines, doing two tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now, his image is to help fellow veterans get back on their feet, by opening The Barracks in Muskogee.
Just before The Barracks were set to open, Lezama's cousin, Gil Ortiz, took his own life. Ortiz was a service member of 17 years, and was a husband and father of three.
"This is a man who was there when my daughter passed away. Our wives were pregnant together," Lezama recalled. "I'm reading through these text messages seeing if there's any kind of clue. A reach out for help or something because he knew what we were doing."
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Victor Lezama, I do not know if you will ever read this or not but I have to try. Wanting to help veterans is a wonderful thing. The problem is, too many want to help, but do not know how to do it. I've been doing this since 1982, so when I say what has to be said, please consider that this is directed to everyone wanting to make a difference.
Stop doing what you are doing until you are honestly prepared to do it.
Make sure you have all the knowledge you need, before you even decide to do this work.
Make sure that you have the resources set up in case you get over your head and need to send the veteran for more help than you can give.
Make sure you have your own resources for when you are overwhelmed and need to talk to someone to help you, especially when you lose someone you know.
You also have to face that fact that you will not be able to save all of them. That is something I know all too well when we lost my husband's nephew. I never could find the right words he needed to hear before he would listen to anything else I had to say to him.
Your cousin knew you were there and it was up to him to ask you for help. It is something that you will never totally let go of, but let that motivate you to keeping on with the work you do so that others willing to seek help will find it.
No matter how many times I read something like this, and the dagger hits my heart all over again emotionally, I do not regret trying to save as many as possible. There is nothing like turning a life around and seeing joy come back into their lives again. If I can help you in anyway, please call 407-754-7526 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also find Point Man International Ministries to help you in your area.