I rarely mention names or post pictures of friends and family on this blog for their privacy. But this warrants a rule breaker.
A friend took his life this morning. A former Marine, a veteran, who continued to serve his country as a civilian, was son, brother, father, uncle, Marine brother, and friend. He left this message on Facebook for us to wake up to this morning.
He ended with a heart wrenching “My address is *************. The door is unlocked.”
I met Alex on a business trip in the Middle East years ago. I was traveling on my own, and he and his colleagues became my fast friends. Their company made what could have been a long lonely frustrating business trip into an adventure filled with laughter and great memories. He wouldn’t strike anyone as friend from appearance. His size intimidated. His scowling face made people balk. He could be unpleasantly and blunt. Underneath that gruff exterior though was a heart of gold, a fighter who would protect and defend those he cared about. It was a wonderful feeling belonging in that defended circle.
I don’t profess to be of the closest friends with him; yet, his death affected me profoundly. He has served for our country in so many ways, proudly. His suicide brings to the forefront of my mind the alarmingly high rates of suicide amongst vets. It hurts my head to think how all these men and women who put their lives on the line for us struggle to live back at in their own home. And it breaks my heart that we still don’t know how to help. These men and women whom our country trains to kill and to make sharp quick life-or-death decisions don’t know how to say one simple word: “help”.
So, now we owe it to them to say: “Please tell me how I can help” or “I am here to help you.”
I left this message for him in response to his post. I hope somewhere out there, he gets it.
Oh, Alex. My heart breaks to read your message to us. And there I was thinking when I sent your birthday wishes that I looked forward to catching up in a couple months. I wish you had just picked up the phone to call someone to help you at your low. I am so sad to hear you felt so alone when it couldn’t have been further from the truth. I hope you are finally at the peace you need and deserve. I wish your family and loved ones the strength to get through these difficult times. You’ve given so much of your life to service and protecting us and our country. Since we couldn’t help you in your time with us, now it is up to us to keep you from becoming a statistic by cherishing and honoring your life for the rest of ours.
(photo credit: unknown friend/family. Picked out from his Facebook profile. I thought it best represented people’s first impression!)
His Facebook page has been an out pour of emotion and messages from friends. Let this be a lesson to other people struggling with similar issues as an example that when they feel alone, the truth is the opposite.
For the rest of us, keep this within our reach for other friends who may need the help: Veteran Crisis Line ( 1-800-273-8255 ) is a resource that is available for our service members.
Good bye, Alex. I wish you could have let us help because then I would have had a chance to say this: You got it backwards, you dumba$$. Dude, in order for us to have touched your life, you had to have touched ours, too. You are dearly missed already.
postscript: For those who knew Alex and wish to attend, a service will be held on Wednesday, 3 December, 2014. The service will be held at the Oakland Mills Interfaith Center in Columbia, MD at 1:00 pm EST, with a reception/wake afterward at Sonoma’s in Columbia.
Oakland Mills Interfaith Center
5885 Robert Oliver Pl.
Columbia, MD 21045
Owen Brown Village Center
7284 Cradlerock Way
Columbia, MD 21045
Fundraising for Alex’s children: