We deserve better.

As a combat veteran who lives with PTSD, it breaks my heart to see the epidemic of mass shootings being placed on the backs of citizens who struggle with mental illness. The job I performed in the military required a security clearance. For many years Soldiers who performed jobs with top secret and secret clearances were discouraged from seeking help for things such as depression or anxiety. We were told that if we got help for these things we would lose our clearances and inevitably lose our jobs.

After we redeployed from the first rotation of Operation Iraqi Freedom many Soldiers were in need of care. The military worked to destigmatize mental illness. Soldiers were encouraged to get care and would no longer be at risk of losing their security clearances. I started receiving treatment for PTSD while on active duty. I was open about treatment with members of my unit. Many Soldiers and Officers informed me that because I shared with them my journey they too started receiving care. Many people have commended me for my transparency. It's not any easier for me to tell the world my truth than anyone else. I believe honesty is a form of compassion. If my honesty gives just one person the courage to keep fighting, it’s worth my vulnerability.

Racism and hatred are not mental illnesses, they are choices. Every time citizens are murdered in this country, we grovel over fault and dismiss reality. The reality is we do a poor job of enforcing the laws we already have. We do an even worse job at producing more efficient common sense gun laws. We have now, and have always had, a problem with hate and racism in this country. I maintain that staying alive is not a partisan issue. Making sure our children come home from their schools isn’t a shade of red or blue. Collectively we all want to be able to visit shopping centers, concerts, movies, places of worship and not die while doing so. We can do better. We can have better leaders that don’t put a price tag on our lives. We can send a message to Austin that the lives of the citizens of the great state of Texas are not for sale.

paige dixon