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Mike Washington
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Gold Star father offers insight into a veteran’s mental health

The casket of a US soldier is seen through a doorway during a full military honors burial ceremony next to Section 60, the section of Arlington National Cemetery reserved for those killed during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, on August 16, 2021 in Arlington, Virginia (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)

Mike Washington is a former U.S. Marine with four deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan. He is also a retired Seattle firefighter, and currently works as a psychotherapist. He makes a point to care for first responders and military veterans.

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Mike Washington is aware that the recent and ongoing U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan might be difficult for veterans and servicemen and women to experience. He offered his support and solidarity in an interview with KIRO’s Gee and Ursula.

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“I’m speaking to my veterans, especially [those] who deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan who are going through hard times, watching these images and feeling that remorse that their service was not worthy,” Washington expressed. “And for some who feel this might be the final straw, I want to tell them that there’s help out there, that it can be better. I’m proof that [there is light] at the end of that tunnel. Let’s get together and talk about it because we’re the only ones who truly understand. That’s my mission. That’s what my son told me, and here I am.”

Washington’s son, Sergeant Michael T. Washington, was killed in action in Afghanistan in 2008.

“That was the worst day of my life: June 14, 2008,” Washington said. “I was actually working at fire station 16 in Seattle, and I was putting my gear on next to the fire engine. I turned around, and I saw a white suburban pull up with two Marines in the front and Michael’s mom in the back. I knew instantly what was about to happen.”

He was candid about the emotional toll that took on him and his inability to process the tragedy, at the time.

“I tried to play this role as Mike Washington, master sergeant of marines, and in the moment where I could be the most emotional grieving father that I could, I kept it inside and I never allowed myself to just let it out,” Washington said. “When somebody passes away at 20, there’s just so much, so much more that I wish I could have known about him and who he could have become. I wish he could have experienced life past 20.”

“I was on the verge of suicide. When I say on the verge of suicide, I was,” he added. “I was on the bridge over there by Stanley and Seaports in Tacoma. I was there. And if it wasn’t for my son pulling me back and telling me that my mission is not over, that there is work that I need to do, I wouldn’t be here right now.”

Washington made it clear that his mission in life is to connect veterans with the right mental health counselling so they can get the help they need.

“I’m just an average guy,” Washington added. “There’s nothing special about me. I’m not splitting the atom. I’m not inventing the longer lasting lightbulb. I’m just a regular guy and who understands struggle, and I can help you. And if I can’t help you, I can find somebody who can help you. I work with some just amazing people in the fire and sheriff’s department.

“You just got to reach out, and it’s hard, I get it. I get it’s hard. It’s scary. It’s unknown,” he said. “But it’s going to be hard once you start doing it, too. I can say it’s not easy, stripping that scab off and and talking about these things. But, man, the results are beautiful.”

Mike Washington can be reached at Acuity Counselling.

Listen to the Gee and Ursula Show weekday mornings from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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