Clyde Hoch can tell you his story; but what he wants are people, notably veterans, to tell him theirs. The former U.S. Marine Corps sergeant recently began a crusade against soldier suicide – one that he hopes will crush the alarmingly high rate that those who have served in the military are taking their own lives.
Hoch, a tank commander in Vietnam, released his latest book July 10. Entitled "God Help Me! Cause No One Else Will," it serves as a both a biography and an informational resource on Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). It demonstrates the link between those maladies and suicide and outlines the best ways to get assistance.
"I wrote this book to help make people aware of veteran suicides," the Pennsburg resident said, noting it can benefit veterans' parents, spouses and children by demonstrating warning signs and explaining the emotions that come with serving during wartime. "A veteran commits suicide every 65 minutes. Losing one veteran to suicide [means] we all have failed."
Sharing his own experience, Hoch talks about the day in 1968 he was riding atop his tank and hit a landmine. He was knocked unconscious. While he recovered from a diagnosed concussion, he says he was never the same person afterwards. He suffered from constant ringing in his ears and hearing loss, was sensitive to light and noise, had memory loss, constant anxiety and was hypervigilant.
He also became aggressive at times and suffered from insomnia. He said he took things out on his family, which he regrets immensely. He withdrew from people. He contemplated suicide many times. Many of his fellow soldiers followed through on those thoughts.
While he now believes he had PTSD and TBI, Hoch noted during Vietnam there were no such diagnoses.
"I thought it was for the weak," he said of PTSD. "I thought I had almost every one of the symptoms but the VA (Department of Veterans Affairs) said 'you are fine.' That's what they always say to everyone."
Hoch noted his experiences, now that he is immersed in the veteran community, have pushed him to reach out to soldiers to try to make a difference. He currently volunteers with Vets for Vets, an outreach program in his hometown, and works for the Lehigh County District Attorney's Office mentoring veterans who find themselves in trouble with the law.
"For many years I thought it was just me," he said. "I believe many lives can be saved by a veteran just having someone to talk with that understands; someone who has gone through it. They feel uncomfortable talking to their wives or parents about it.
"I've talked with mothers whose sons have committed suicide. They just didn't know what was really going on with them."
All proceeds from Hoch's latest book will go towards the establishment of a worldwide mentoring program that will match veterans with experienced veteran mentors. Depending upon distance, vets can talk to each other in person, by phone or online, Hoch said. He hopes to sell enough books to make the program free.
"God Help Me! Cause No One Else Will" will be officially released Sept. 27 at a book signing from 1-3 p.m. at the Lehigh County Heritage Museum, 432 W. Walnut St., Allentown, PA 18102. It is currently available on Amazon.
The latest book is Hoch's sixth. He has authored other books on Vietnam and chronicling soldiers from the Upper Perkiomen Valley, as well as a work of fiction. For more information visit www.clydehoch.com