Sam Alexander is a veteran of the U.S. Army who served as a Green Beret (Special Forces).After returning home from the Army, he got a business degree to benefit his native tribe, the Gwich’in. The Gwich’in are the northernmost Indian Nation living in fifteen small villages scattered across a vast area extending from northeast Alaska in the U.S. to the northern Yukon and Northwest Territories in Canada.
Sam started an adventure travel company, Latitude Six-Six, that would immerse travelers in “the full Alaska experience––seeing the land and the local native culture through native guides as well as through visiting local communities.” After starting the company and being so-called “successful,” he noticed that his fellow veterans were really struggling with not only finding their own way to serve but finding their passion for life post-service.
The mental challenges that veterans face are unimaginable, and the mental toll is unbearable for many on their own, so having access to proper healthcare is essential. Unfortunately, not everyone has easy access to the services they are promised post-service–especially those who live in remote areas, like Native Alaskan veterans. Many of these folks have to travel hours for a simple doctor’s visit. With such profound limitations, the result is veterans who do not prioritize their mental care and may be more prone to suicide.
Sam believes that suicide prevention requires two things, the first being mental healthcare. He put’s the second thing like this, “Find your service after service.” Finding your obligation to and role within your community is critical. You must become a functional member of your society, whether that’s your job, family, kid’s sports team, neighborhood, or anything else in between. It doesn’t need to be grand and elaborate like Sam’s story, but it does need to allow you to serve others. Service combined with actively taking care of your mental health drastically decreases the chances of suicide and suicidal thoughts.
After service, many veterans experience feeling as if they are forgotten. These veterans have sacrificed for our country and stood on the front lines only to come home and not be able to access their well-deserved benefits. It’s time to step up to the plate and help our veteran’s voices be heard. Who are we as citizens and as a country if we don’t help those who have helped us?
We partnered with our friends at Mission Roll Call, an organization dedicated to providing veterans with a powerful, unified voice that our Nation’s leaders heard, to create a short film called Niveh T’ah’in (Warrior). This short film is centered around Sam’s transition from the U.S. Army to a life of taking care of Alaska by taking care of her native people. A story of service, humility, and loyalty. Coming November 30th.
If you have a story, message, or insight, please get in touch with us so that we can help make your voice heard.
We’ll leave with this proverb, “The tongue can paint what the eyes can’t see.” Thank you, or as Gwich’ins would say, “mahsi.”