Jason and I met through friends. His sister and my sister were friends in high school and they introduced us. I was a widowed single mom. My son’s father had been killed in a car accident when I was 6 months pregnant.
He was a wild and fun longhaired, hippy-type who was great at making me laugh. We dated for a while but never seriously. When he decided to join the Army, I wished him luck and didn’t see him again for over a year. All until I was at another party and we bumped into each other again. He was no longer the hippy I remembered, but a man serious about life. We reconnected and started see each other again. Later we were engaged. Then I found out that I was pregnant. Jason was so excited about becoming a dad. We married 2 months after our daughter was born. Only a month after that, Jason got word that he was going to be deployed and only four months after our wedding he was gone to Iraq.
I was so scared. Six long months later was R&R. Jason surprised me and came home for our kids’ birthdays. We were so excited to see him and had missed him so much. It was then that I first started to notice changes in Jason. I knew that being over there changes our vets but it was still a bit hard to get used to. He was no longer the happy ex-hippy that I remembered, but harder and more cynical about life. I was so worried when he left again. Three months later, I got news that Jason was experiencing problems and was being flown out to Germany. Jason was Combat Engineer and his duties included driving around looking for IEDs. Come to find out, Jason had been involved in several direct hits and many indirect. He had had concussion after concussion and now his mood, short term memory and coordination was being affected.
After Germany, it was Walter Reed, after that it was Fort Bragg, NC. I flew to see him there and tried and bring him home. When I got there, Jason didn’t act like himself at all. I had to be careful not to get him upset. I was there for a week and had to go back and get my kids who were staying with family. The very next day I got a call that Jason had been almost arrested my MPs on the base. He was taken to the hospital and given meds to help him calm down. I was on another flight the very next day. We stayed 2 months in a Fort Bragg hotel room full of other vets suffering from PTSD and TBI (traumatic brain injury), like Jason. We saw doctor after doctor. The A/C went out a number of times (it was in the middle of summer) and almost all of our meals were cooked in a microwave. Jason would get so angry at people when they would tell him, “Welcome Home”. He would scream at them, “I’m not home yet, I’m stuck here!” Jason wasn’t getting better, but getting worse. Finally, I told the doctors and the others in charge that enough was enough and we wanted Jason home.
After fighting with them, we finally got them to send Jason home. Jason still wasn’t the same. We tried doctors, meds, group therapy, counseling and nothing seemed to help. Jason was so frustrated at the lack of help that he started to drink a lot. With the drinking, came the fighting. Jason was arrested for assaulting me. He decided that the best thing for him was to get sober and to go where he wasn’t allowed to drink; back to Iraq. I begged him not to go but he volunteered anyways. He was gone only 3 months this time, but the damage to his mind had gotten worse. When he got back he was arrested for DUI, assaulting a police officer and resisting arrest all on the same day. The assaults on me went on but I kept forgiving him because I knew that it wasn’t my sweet Jason that was doing it. But after another standoff with the police where he threatened suicide by cop, I knew he needed more than I could give him. All the VA could do was a 72 hour hold in the psychiatric ward. While he was there I gave the number to the in-patient substance abuse facility there at the VA. After completing their program Jason came out and started drinking again, immediately. I had stayed at my sister’s while he was in treatment. On November 11th my sister woke me up and told me to come into the living room. My whole family was there and I knew before they told me that Jason was dead. They told me that he had been drinking. Went to our bedroom and shot himself in the head. All I could think was that I should have been there with him. I felt like I failed him. That everyone had failed him. I had to tell our children that they would never see their father again. I still haven’t been able to bring myself to tell them how it happened. At his funeral, I just wanted to scream at him and at everyone. I can’t even look at his picture without crying. It’s been over 3 years and I’m still crying.
I wrote a poem to and for Jason:
I hate you. I love you. I despise you. I miss you.
Why aren’t you here so I can yell at you for this.
How could you leave us like that?
You answered the call to duty and the call to war.
Why won’t you answer my call?
You thought only of your own pain and never of the pain that you would cause.
You thought only of your own brokenness when you shattered my world.
You spoke to me once of love and forever.
Now the only thing I hear is the echo of that gunshot.
I know God forgives you but why can’t I?
I want to drag you out of heaven to answer me…