Farewell to a Soldier

To my blogging friends and followers, my apologies for being mostly absent for the last two weeks. It started out as a problem with a severe sciatic attack that had me mostly bedridden and I just cannot do my posts from my eight-inch tablet. Then tragedy struck our family.

If you know anything about Combat PTSD, you know that at least 22 soldiers take their own lives every day. Sadly, on May 21st my nephew, Stephen, became a part of those statistics. Stephen served in Afghanistan as one of the U.S. Army’s elite, a Ranger. He later worked with an organization to raise funds to help veterans who wished to voluntarily return and fight the Kurds. He was a Christian and a true American patriot. In my mind, he should never have been in the military—he was too emotionally fragile—but he was determined to serve our country.

Stephen’s departure from this life leaves a big hole in our hearts. I knew he was struggling, but I prayed that with the continued love and support of his long-time girlfriend, as well as friends and family, he would succeed in defeating his demons. Yet I cannot say that I was completely surprised when I got word that he had taken his life. Despite what many people believe about suicide sending one to Hell, I choose to believe that Stephen is waiting in Heaven for the rest of us.

Rather than the usual funeral, his family chose to instead hold a Celebration of Life, complete with a barbecue meal and balloon release. People shared their memories of Stephen, which sometimes made it very hard to follow the “tear-free” zone rule. I knew that his girlfriend (especially), his stepmother, and others would be beating themselves up about what they could have done differently. I’ve been in that place before having had three friends earlier in my life who chose to take their lives, so I knew that there was nothing they could have done differently and told them so in the hope that they would be able to absorb the fact later.

For my own part, one of the last times we communicated online Stephen thanked me. When I asked for what, he said the advice and support I had given him in the past, even as a youngster, had helped him a lot. I wish that he had been able to win the battle with PTSD, but I, more than many, understand how hard it is to fight that battle. My PTSD is different from his, but it still wears you down. For a couple of days I envied Stephen not having to fight that battle any longer.

Goodbye, beautiful boy. Though we didn’t share bloodlines, from the time my sister married your father you were part of our family and remained so even after the divorce. The memories we have of you will, though insufficient to fill the hole in our hearts, have to sustain us until we meet again.

Stephen Memorial

The following was written by another Ranger while he was struggling with PTSD and a suicidal ideology. [Source]

. . . It depicts the mindset and “reality” from the perspective of a distorted and very dangerous state of mind . . . 

Forever into Darkness

Haunted by faceless faces

Drowning in oceans of disfigured remains

Distorted sounds and disorganized noises blend with images of stiff, naked bodies covered in lifeless blood

Tormented by violence, death and suicide

Suffocated by misery, guilt and fear

Long, restless nights endure for an eternity

Searching for an escape

Inching closer to the other side

Each passing day brings me closer to nowhere

Fantasizing of death, the comfort it brings

Wishing to spill my blood to release the pain

Drain the agony from my veins

Asphyxiated by the reality created in my brain.