Two days before the Memorial Day weekend, the U.S. Army sent a call-out to veterans on Twitter asking them how their time serving in the military impacted their lives.

The tweet was well-intended, apparently aimed at celebrating the sacrifices service members make for the country.

How has serving impacted you?

— U.S. Army (@USArmy) May 23, 2019

Some people responded with stories of growth, saying their time in the military “restored my self confidence and pride within,” and allowed them to serve with the “bravest, most self-sacrificial and humblest men and women” they’ve ever met.

But many responded with heartbreaking stories, detailing the darker side of deployment and war on veterans and their families and friends. The responses shed light on the pain that lingers after service members return home.

I’ve had the same nightmare almost every night for the past 15 years

— Mike Prysner (@MikePrysner) May 24, 2019

My cousin committed suicide while on duty at the armory after coming home from a tour abroad.

— Lacy M. Johnson (@lacymjohnson) May 25, 2019

My father had 3 different cancers due to his exposure to defoliants he transported down the Saigon River but he was stationed in Okinawa and the Army has no record of his trips down the Saigon River in 1962/3 so no service connection and no disability. Thanks for that.

— Corrina Parry (@rina421) May 25, 2019

According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, about 30% of Vietnam veterans, 12% of Gulf War veterans and 11% to 20% of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom veterans are living with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Suicide also impacts veterans at disproportionate rates: More than 6,000 veterans died by suicide between 2008 to 2016. Between 2013 and 2014, an average of 20 veterans died by suicide each day.

My mother was a Lt. and triage nurse in Vietnam. She’s been a broken person for the last 50 years over the things she saw. In December, she killed herself with prescription pills.

— Jake Copeland (@JamMasterJake19) May 25, 2019

My dad, a Vietnam veteran, can no longer function without being stoned. He is terrified of crowds, loud noises, and strangers.

— Valar Morghulis, but Not Today (@Katchin05) May 25, 2019

My son has horrible night terrors now. He woke up choking his wife because he thought she was attacking him. They divorced shortly after that. He has a TBI. He has compression fractures in his back that are due to having the wrong body armor for the conditions. The VA is a joke

— 32 stadiums to visit (@Jj216pp) May 25, 2019

My father, a 25-year Infantryman, died when I was 25. My mom died lonely and dejected 7 years later. They never saw me run a college race…never saw me umpire or referee…never met my wife or kids. But I’m supposed to say Vietnam was worth it.

— T.C. Cameron 🇺🇸 (@ByTCCameron) May 25, 2019

Not me – my father. He served in the 101st Airborne during Vietnam. He came home a broken man who attempted to put his life back together. As he got older, he struggled with PTSD & eventually Agent Orange, a fight he would lose at the age of 57.

— AN 801 ORIGINAL (@TheJazzyUte) May 25, 2019

Many people thanked service members and their loved ones for the sacrifices they made and expressed sadness over the traumas they faced.

To everyone in this thread who has served, I know that “thank you for you service” does not even begin to express my (and others) gratitude towards you. You have experienced horrible things that no one deserves, and I’m so sorry you did. I hope that one day the government 1/?

— 🏳️‍🌈✨ Magical Miranda ✨🏳️‍🌈 (she/her) Ⓥ (@magicalmiranda1) May 25, 2019

will help you the way you deserve in terms of finance, physical and mental help. It’s not fair the way that this world treats you. Nobody deserves the trauma, pain and horror that any of you have experienced. Please take care of yourself. Be kind to yourself. I know today 2/?

— 🏳️‍🌈✨ Magical Miranda ✨🏳️‍🌈 (she/her) Ⓥ (@magicalmiranda1) May 25, 2019

may be really hard for you in terms of reliving things you don’t want to. Remember, it’s not weak to ask for help from a friend, family member or therapist. You’re worthy and deserving of life, & if you’re struggling with mentally after all of this, don’t give up. You are loved

— 🏳️‍🌈✨ Magical Miranda ✨🏳️‍🌈 (she/her) Ⓥ (@magicalmiranda1) May 25, 2019

After receiving nearly 9,000 replies, the Army issued a follow-up message to those who shared their stories. The military branch thanked everyone for taking their time to reply and assured them that their “stories are real, they matter, and they may help others in similar situations.”

“As we honor those who paid the ultimate sacrifice this weekend by remembering their service, we are also mindful of the fact that we have to take care of those who came back home with scars we can’t see,” the tweet read.

To everyone who responded to this thread, thank you for sharing your story. Your stories are real, they matter, and they may help others in similar situations. The Army is committed to the health, safety, and well-being of our Soldiers.

— U.S. Army (@USArmy) May 25, 2019

As we honor those who paid the ultimate sacrifice this weekend by remembering their service, we are also mindful of the fact that we have to take care of those who came back home with scars we can't see.

— U.S. Army (@USArmy) May 25, 2019

If you or someone you know needs help, call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also text HOME to 741-741 for free, 24-hour support from the Crisis Text Line. Outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of resources.

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