“Call it (post-traumatic stress disorder), call it whatever you want. But it’s still a war.”

article http://m.utsandiego.com/news/2014/mar/28/farrell-gilliam-marine-suicide-amputee/

 

He rarely spoke of it. Not to his family or best buddies, fellow Marines or medical staff watching over him.

But Cpl. Farrell Gilliam had endured far more by the time he died this year at age 25 than most people could comprehend.

The Camp Pendleton infantryman survived three months of combat in 2010 with the “Darkhorse” 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment in Sangin, Afghanistan — one of the deadliest battlegrounds of the war.

Amid firefights and insurgents’ bombs, Gilliam saw limbs strewn across the ground. He loaded broken, bleeding bodies for medical evacuation, and grieved for the friends they could not save.

Gilliam’s tour ended early when his legs were blown off by an improvised explosive device, or IED. “Farrell’s Fight,” his struggle on the homefront that his big brother helped him chronicle online, included more than 30 surgeries and three years of rehabilitation.

It was a story of triumph over wounds that would have been fatal in earlier conflicts. A story that was coming to an end, but not how anyone who knew him expected.

Gilliam was months away from a medical discharge from the Marine Corps and a new life as civilian college student. Physically, he had one surgery left to remove hardware in an arm. Psychologically, he was suffering from invisible wounds he hid behind smiles and upbeat banter.

Or so his family discovered on Jan. 9, when Gilliam committed suicide by shooting himself in the head in his barracks room in San Antonio.

Gilliam finally succumbed to his battle wounds, said Sgt. James Finney, his former squad leader in Afghanistan. It doesn’t matter who pulled the trigger — to him Gilliam was killed in action just like the other 25 from their battalion.

“It was an 8,000-mile sniper shot,” said Finney, 27, now an infantry instructor. “His passing was directly due to a situation because of his wounds received in Afghanistan. I don’t care what anyone else thinks.”

The suicide rate for active-duty troops spiked in 2012 to nearly one a day, a record during this era of warfare and twice as high as a decade before. At least 350 took their lives that year, more than the number of service members killed in combat. (Final numbers for 2012 and a year-end tally for 2013 are pending, a Pentagon official said.)

Last year, 45 Marines committed suicide and 234 tried to. It was by far the highest number of suicide attempts for the service since at least 2003.

Among veterans of all the armed forces, at least 22 commit suicide daily, according to estimates from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Gilliam’s death blindsided his family and friends. Amid their raw first waves of grief, anger and irrational guilt, they pray that sharing his story might inspire others to stop suffering silently. Or spur a family to intervene. Or close a gap in support or education.

“I want no family to have to go through the pain that we are going through. If there’s just one person who gets that help that saves them … then it’s worth it,” said Gilliam’s brother, Daniel Lorente, 30, of Palo Alto, who cared for him full time as his non-medical assistant early in his rehabilitation.

“My little brother would be next to me right now if it wasn’t for what happened to him in Afghanistan,” Lorente said. “It’s all a tragedy of this war. Call it (post-traumatic stress disorder), call it whatever you want. But it’s still a war. It’s still going on. It’s on our own soil, with our own soldiers.”

 

 

Read the rest of the article here… http://m.utsandiego.com/news/2014/mar/28/farrell-gilliam-marine-suicide-amputee/

 

 

 

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Daily Prompt – Random Act of Kindness

A little over a year ago, in my husband’s and my college town, a man was involved in a confrontation at one of the local bars, and upon leaving the man he was in confrontation with attacked and ran him over with a large truck in the parking lot of this bar. The man that got run over was a Marine, just back from Afghanistan and out of the corp only a couple months earlier. He ended up making a full recover to my knowledge but was in very critical condition for quite a while. The 18 year old boy who attacked him was easily caught and is in prison now.  When my husband and I found out about the incident we, like most of the community, were absolutely outraged. At this point (and for several following weeks) it did not look like this man was going to survive. My husband’s angered response to the news was “He just survived hell for his country only to come back and lose it all because of some piece of shit 18 year old BOY!” The story broke many people’s hearts including our own. The man had a wife, two kids, and a baby on the way at the time. This was right around Christmas and the Collegiate Veterans Association (a club my husband helped start at the local college while we were there) had been collecting money and helping the family since the incident occurred. When it got closer to Christmas my husband and I decided to send the family a Toys R Us gift card for the kids and a spa gift certificate for the mother (I’m sure she could’ve used a little stress relief whenever she finally got the chance to use it). We didn’t put a return address or our names. We only knew them through mutual friends and peers, we’ve never actually met them. Sometimes I really wish I could’ve seen if it helped at all or how it made them feel, but I have never cared if they ever knew that we were the ones who did it. I was really proud of our community for how they responded to the incident. I am always so humbled by how much people can come together to help others during times of crisis, loving others without expecting anything in return is what humanity is meant to be about.

Moral Of The Story Is…

I wanted to share a little something that doesn’t necessarily have to do with my husband’s PTSD, but more to do with his feelings on losing his dream. Many veteran’s who were forced out due to injury or something else honorable may feel the same way. Before his knee injury in Iraq he planned on being a lifer in the Corp.

First a little background..Before I met my husband I fell for another man in the Marine Corp. I was a senior in high school and it was my first “true love”. He was a couple years older than me and also a grunt (infantryman) in the Corp. I’m not gonna get into the details of our relationship but we dated for about a year, and stayed pretty good friends afterward to this day. The biggest difference between him and my husband is that he hated the corp, and my husband loved it. He wasn’t a shitbird, he did his job, and he did it well. But his heart was never in it, he was a pretty negative person all around. My husband on the other hand loves the corp to this day, he never complained about it, was a great Marine, and misses it everyday.

So to the story..

Last night I received a text message from my ex, which isn’t anything out of the ordinary. Like I said we are friends, we still talk, and he just got out of the corp and has been dealing with the transition back into the civilian world. My husband and I have a pretty awesome line of communication in our relationship and he knows that I am still friends with him. He saw the message pop up on my phone and handed it to me..

“You got a text from Zach,” he said, an ever so slight look of disgust on his face. He always had a little bit of something in his expression when he said my ex’s name. Anger maybe, resentment? Whatever it was was very very discrete, I wasn’t even sure I was seeing it. But we had talked about my and my ex in the past and my husband has always said he was ok with me talking to him.

Don’t worry this story isn’t going where you think it is..

I was curious so I asked him..

“Babe..I know I’ve asked you this before but does it bug you at all that I talk to my ex?”

“No baby, it really doesn’t,” He seemed genuine enough.

“Well I just notice something in the way you say his name sometimes..I know you probably don’t like him..”

“No baby, I really don’t mind that you talk to him. That doesn’t bother me at all. I don’t like him because he’s a whiny bitch..he doesn’t know what I would do to have back what he hated so much,” he replied simply. He wasn’t angry, or even sad, just to the point.

“If I sound short or angry or something when I say his name it’s not because I don’t like you talking, trust me I would tell you that baby, I just don’t have any respect or time for guys like him.”

He went on to talk more about how it makes him feel when people complain or give up what he had. I’ve seen it tear him apart before, I see how losing his dream and having to build a new identity left a deep scar on his soul. It made him stronger in many ways but it’s also something he’ll have to think about for the rest of  his life. To hear someone complain and throw away the opportunity to take advantage of the many experiences and bonds that the military can bring them is basically an insult to him.

He’s told me before and he told me again, “The military is what you make of it. Most of life is.” He told me about the differen’t veterans he’d seen who were just like my ex. They always regret it. Not right away, maybe not even the first 5 years they’re out, but eventually they will regret not trying to enjoy their military time. They will meet another vet who loved the Corp (or Army, Airforce, ext.) and when they ask them why? their answer will be, “Because I chose to make it a good experience.”

Something my husband has always taught me is that you can always find the positive in everything you go through in life. There’s a reason for everything, and you don’t want to look back and regret not experiencing all the things you could have been enjoying while you were complaining and/or wallowing in self pity.

Moral of the story is…for many of the situations you may find yourself hating, there’s always someone else who would give up everything to have what you have.

 

FYI: the names in this post have been changed for privacy.