A sword forged from the fallen steel structure of the World Trade Center towers Saturday provided symbolic inspiration for military veterans struggling to transition to a new and meaningful life after combat.
The weapon, dubbed the “Spartan Sword” by its makers, was escorted by a squadron of motorcycle riders from Lakewood to Pierce College’s Puyallup campus Saturday.
There, combat vets heard inspirational speakers, viewed a new documentary-style film and shared information about moving on in their lives.
The sword and RP/6, the nonprofit Lakewood-based organization that sponsored Saturday’s Pierce College gathering, were created to help veterans adjust to their lives outside the war zones where they have served repeatedly in recent years, said Sherrill Isenhower, events director for RP/6.
The sword was the idea of a retired Brooklyn firefighter and a former Marine combat pilot who were concerned about the high rates of suicide among combat veterans.
The steel was hammered into a sword in McKinney, Texas, by another veteran likewise concerned about the difficult adjustments that many former combat soldiers have had re-entering civilian lives.
The pledge that goes hand-in-hand with the sword was the idea of Boone Cutler, an Iraq War veteran. He and another veteran were discussing how difficult it was to readjust.
They admitted they had thought of suicide.
They realized that their mutual discussions had helped them cope. From that discussion, they said, they created the Spartan Pledge.
That pledge, repeated at Saturday’s event by those attending, is simply worded:
“I will not take my own life by my own hand until I talk to my battle buddy first. My mission is to find a mission to help my warfighter family.”
The pledge, said Cutler, is not unlike the so-called “no suicide contracts” that psychologists have been using for years as a tool to deal with the threat of veteran’s suicides.
Isenhower said the pledge helps establish a spiritual connection among the veterans that RP/6 is helping, reminding them that they are not alone in their struggle and that others have used the help that organizations like RP/6 provide to move beyond their life-altering combat experiences.
The sword arrived in the Tacoma area early last week from New York via American Airlines.
The airline provides transportation for the sword as it travels around the country to veterans events.
The airline treats the sword like the slain soldiers it represents and the struggling veterans it aims to inspire.