An average of 16.8 veterans committed suicide per day in 2020 according to Department of U.S. Veterans Affairs data. Adjusting for population differences, the rate of suicide for veterans was 57.3% greater than the non-veteran population.
Gabe Lord, veteran and founder of Operation Bitcoin, thinks that the lack of purpose following their service is a key driver of this trend. Operation Bitcoin is a nonprofit he founded which seeks to train veterans for work and community building in the bitcoin space.
“The most important factor for a veteran in finding success after the military is engaging in a purpose driven mission with a community of others doing the same,” Lord told me in our interview. He thinks that bitcoin can help fill that void and give veterans a renewed sense of purpose as they pursue meaning in their lives beyond service.
Lord has run training programs for separating veterans for years. He sees an influx of veterans flocking to bitcoin. Many view bitcoin as a means to fill the void in meaning left after their military service ends. With the ongoing storm of veteran suicide, it may be just what they need in order to restore their mental health and get them back in the game.
Moral Injury as a Driver of Veteran Suicides
After the disorderly withdrawal from Afghanistan, many veterans feel that their contributions were made in vain. For a country at war for over 20 years, four times more servicemembers have taken their own lives than died as a result of combat.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a largely contributing factor, however more recently, medical experts have been diving into moral injury as a driver for this trend. The VA defines moral injury as a traumatic event which contradicts deeply held moral beliefs.
Though moral injury overlaps significantly with PTSD, the two conditions are not the same. Nonetheless, moral injury can lead to depression, substance abuse issues, as well as suicidal ideations and actions.
“I know many veterans who thought they were signing up to fight for freedom and later learned they were fighting to line the pockets of the military industrial complex,” Alex Stanczyk said in a discussion about veteran dissatisfaction with their service. Stanczyk is a veteran who hosts the daily podcast Cafe Bitcoin.
Stanczyk has found a new mission in bitcoin, serving as the Managing Director of Swan Bitcoin’s private client service. Swan is a bitcoin only exchange, and serves as an educational platform for those seeking to learn more about bitcoin before diving in.
Jordan Gambrell, a former Green Beret officer recalled his resentment at being thanked for his service after separation. He now uses those opportunities to discuss bitcoin as a means for preserving freedom without the use of violence.
Lord, Stanczyk, Gambrell, Shane Hazel and Mike Hobart are all veterans that have united under bitcoin to find a deeper sense of purpose and meaning in their work. As a result, they have recently founded the Bitcoin Veterans podcast.
Bitcoin Veterans discusses bitcoin in the context of veterans’ shared experience. It also has created a nascent community of bitcoin interested veterans where they can discuss the topic and support one another. They hope that their platform can help spread awareness about bitcoin and how it can act as a continuation of service after the military.
Bitcoin and the Call of Duty
Alex Brammer of the Bitcoin Today Coalition expressed some discontent with his separation from the military as well. Brammer is a former Army Ranger and West Point graduate who left the Army after 15 years of service and 4 combat deployments.
“When I left, I was very disenfranchised. The sense of purpose that I thought I had was gone,” Brammer said in our interview. He said that he had become somewhat dependent on the sense of purpose that military service provides.
“I realized that I had developed a core part of my identity around that [sense of purpose], and nothing seemed to come close to scratching that itch,” he elaborated. Brammer soon found bitcoin, which helped to alleviate the gap.
“You are in an industry with people with shared values, advancing the development of this technology, culture and network,” Brammer explained. He sees bitcoin as improving “broad human outcomes for the world by fixing a fundamentally broken monetary system.”
Brammer added that after three years in the industry, his sense of purpose has not diminished. “It remains just as palpable as it was on day one. I’m seeing what bitcoin is doing for power system optimization and reindustrialization,” Brammer added. He clarified that it’s not a utopian existence, but the incremental improvements give him hope.
Brammer now sees a huge proliferation of interest from the veteran community. Many joined the service through a naive sense of optimism; to be a part of something larger than themselves. These advocates think that bitcoin can help diminish the void left after service through building new communities around bitcoin.