CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Major Ed Pulido admitted losing his leg in Iraq wounded him more than just physically.
“I understood that I, too, needed help. I was suicidal,” said Pulido who was injured by a roadside bomb. “You know what? I woke up and said hey, I’ve got to be better than this. My life is precious, and my family is important and I’ve got to love my country.”
September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, and Pulido said the Real Warriors Campaign helps veterans who often struggle with suicidal thoughts.
“It’s a campaign to raise awareness about the signs and symptoms of invisible wounds of war, and the wounds you may be living with that are psychological,” Pulido said. “I will tell you that there’s a lot of service members that have experienced these silent wounds.”
On average, 22 veterans commit suicide each day across the country. Last week in Charleston, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin introduced an initiative called Mountain State 22, aiming to raise awareness and prevent veteran suicide.
Eight veterans ended their lives in West Virginia last year.
Pulido said veterans riddled by depression need help from somewhere, if not their own family.
“Peer-to-peer support is important, and family support. So if you don’t have a family member that can help you, you certainly have another peer, another service member; or a friend that can be there for you. You can utilize your faith as a way of recovery.”
As the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks was Sunday, Pulido said such days can make depression worse. In psychology, they’re referred to as “triggers.”
“These triggers can just trigger a response, whether it’s positive or negative, the most important thing is making sure you have self-control, and what I call controlling your emotions in some way,” he said. “It’s OK to cry, to do the things you may do emotionally. But it’s not OK for you to do something negatively to yourself, your family or to the community at large.”
Pulido most wanted veterans who are struggling to know that Real Warriors is there if all else fails.
“If we have a campaign that we raise awareness and we save one life, I think we’ve made a difference,” he said. “I want to save everyone, but at the end of the day people have to engage, they have to be inspired, and they have to understand that if you do have an issue, there’s help available through Real Warriors Campaign.”