My husband, Tim, shot himself on July 26th, 2008. We knew each other since high school; we were married for 11 months and 1 day on the day he died. He was my whole world. He is a Veteran of the Iraq War. He was a 1/5 Marine. He was very active in the Veteran Community in town. I miss him tremendously and I struggle every day. The following is a reply I wrote to a reporter who emailed me asking for an interview. I’ve only been able to grant one interview- a video interview- to high school students for a Veteran’s Day assembly…
I don’t know the details of Tim’s time with the Marine Corp, there were a few stories he told over and over again, I know he got some medals and awards. Unfortunately, I didn’t know Tim very well most of the time he was in Iraq. Even though we knew each other in high school, we lost touch for a bit during his first years in the Marine Corp. I became close to Tim when he was trying to make a decision stay in for four years or get out and to move back to Washington and go to school. I know the Tim who decided not to reenlist, but to go to Western and live with me b/c he was in love with me; we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together. When we were first engaged he had me read a book called ‘No True Glory’. His unit was in it. After reading that I was reassured that what he did in Iraq everyday made him special, lucky, a hero, and very unique. Also, that he loved being a Marine and that it was a hard choice to get out.
I was grateful when he started working at the Vet Center as a work study; he was having troubles readjusting to civilian life. I thought it was very important for him to be around other veterans, especially other combat veterans, and other Marines. It’s hard to find other combat veteran Marines is in this part of the country, so when he did find a few they became quick friends and shared war stories. He had aspirations of becoming a Psychologist and working at the Vet Center so he could help other veterans and starting a family. In January 2008, he started counseling and taking medication to help him focus in school, along with that came more time to think about his life growing up (which wasn’t the best), his service to his country, and some thoughts of depression and anxiety.
During this time it became apparent to me that he had PTSD, and he also was struggling a little with that diagnosis. By April 2008 he got a muster letter from Kansas City, MO. It spun our life upside down. We weren’t planning on being a military family; we wanted to be with each other all the time. All his Marine buddies were getting letters too. He wanted to reenlist but, because he was on Ritalin the Marine Corp wouldn’t take him back. He went through the screening process at the end of May, and was found ineligible for recall, because of the PTSD. Sometime in June he was prescribed generic Ambien because he just wanted to sleep through the night, and an anti-anxiety medication, he didn’t like because it made him feel angry for no reason.
The death certificate says he suffered from clinical depression, and that he died from an apparent suicide, gunshot wound to the head. His Vet Center therapists have told me that they didn’t see any red flag signs that he was suicidal, I didn’t either. I was with him when he died. We were having a normal afternoon on the day that he died. On July 26th we went to a wedding reception up the street from our townhouse and left early, around 9:30 PM he took a generic Ambien, which I didn’t know about until we were walking the dog and he started to stagger. Instead of going to sleep he insisted upon walking the dog again and walking to the store to buy cigarettes, we argued about this. He started acting unlike himself; his eyes were “funny”. His therapists say he was probably sleep walking and sleep talking. We think Tim was sleep walking, dreaming, not in his right mind b/c of the medication when the gun went off around 11:00 PM, he didn’t know what he was doing, or thought it wasn’t real. Suicide or accidental self-inflicted fatal gunshot wound to the head doesn’t make me feel any more or less better about Tim being gone from my life, his family’s life his friends’ lives.
Tim and I talked about suicide and how we’d never do that to each other. To say Tim committed suicide would be saying Tim is the exact opposite of who he is. We always believed we could take advantage of what the Vet Center had to offer and that we would and could work through any problem we were having. I feel cheated out of the rest of my life. I feel like this didn’t have to happen.