AUSTIN (Nexstar) — The Texas Veterans Land Board will host a virtual Memorial Day service Monday at 10 a.m. in an effort to encourage all Texans to remember the lives lost on the front lines.
“It’s absolutely essential for our country to recognize the contributions that the men and women in the uniform have made, that these freedoms that we sometimes take for granted have come at the cost of that ultimate sacrifice,” Texas General Land Office Commissioner and VLB chairman George P. Bush explained.
Bush said he wanted to get the message out that even though COVID-19 has canceled many events, Memorial Day would still be special.
“The least we can do is take that moment to reflect this virtual event offers that opportunity to do that. And then many Americans can go about the rest of the weekend, enjoy the barbecue,” Bush added.
It’s especially important to veterans like Blake Holbrook.
“I redeployed to Baghdad, Iraq with the first cavalry from 2004 to 2005, on a place called Haifa Street, which was, at the time probably one of the worst places you could be,” Holbrook said.
“It wasn’t a matter of if you were going to get hurt, but when,” Holbrook explained. “We lost five men in our unit.”
Holbrook also suffered an injury from a grenade attack. When he returned home in 2005, he decided he would stay home for good, but his battle continued.
“I kind of became, you know, the quintessential veteran that we hear a lot about today…was struggling with PTSD, substance abuse and a traumatic brain injury and just kind of drifting for several years. I ended up between in three psychiatric wards between 2008 and 2011, and then a 30-day substance abuse rehab. And 2011, I said, ‘Hey, you know, what are you doing with your life, you are not certainly honoring the men that did not come home with you,” Holbrook explained.
He decided to make a change, and wanted to be able to help others.
“I noticed in kind of my dealings with the VA that there were just a bunch of other young veterans like me, and I set myself on a path to kind of help those guys and the first step of that was helping myself,” Holbrook said.
He went to Texas State University, and got degrees in English and social work.
“I got employed by Texas State University and the University System to develop programs for them for veterans,” Holbrook explained, “And then in 2018, I began work at the Samaritan Center here in Austin, Texas. And I currently supervise the Travis State Jail veterans dorm, which is a 13-week program for incarcerated veterans here in Travis County.”
He hopes that other struggling veterans are able to find the courage to ask for help.
“I think the real scary part was that when we came home, we came home in 2005. By 2010, we had lost more men from suicide in our unit than we had in the war,” Holbrook said.
“I think when you’re in the military, you’re always taught to just kind of keep quiet and move forward with the mission, complete the mission at all costs. And sometimes that transcends to when you get out to the civilian world. You just try to kind of drive on and, and what you really need to do is seek help,” Holbrook said.
Holbrook added that he hopes everyone is able to take a moment to remember on Memorial Day.
“The men that we lost were husbands, they were brothers. They were sons and friends. We might all stop and pause on Memorial Day or Veterans Day, but these families are living with the memory of their loved ones on an every day, every minute basis. So we should as a country not only support our military, first responders and all that, but we really should think about the families who have made the same ultimate sacrifice.”