Many people don't realize what that horrible statistic means: 22 soldiers committing suicide each day. Many have pointed out the number is an average, not a true daily total, just a statistic adopted by the media and politicians to grab attention. Bottom line...ONE is too many.
This week has been horrible, news wise. It was especially troubling when the nutcase who shot his former co-workers live on air tried to bring my state into his lunatic ravings. Meaning? His diatribe claimed he was taking on the "race war" challenge of that other nutcase who killed the 9 church members in Charleston, South Carolina.
However the news which brought me to tears was the death of a total stranger. I never met Austin. One of the CWWAF soldiers I'm friends with, Tracy, has frequently shared his video clips. I don't know how many tours he did in Iraq/Afghanistan, but his "rantings", as he called them, were equal parts of truth and funny. Austin knew how to tell the hard truths so that they smacked you between the eyes if you hadn't been paying attention...and yet he left you laughing. His last video was on Aug. 22nd....he decided to exit on Aug. 23rd.
I was beyond shocked. Did no one close to him see it coming? Was he so adept at covering with laughter that friends shook their heads, muttering, "That's so Austin"? I checked for a Facebook page and found a photo, a week earlier, where he was serious, eyes almost dead. Only one person had written, "Hey nephew, why the long face? What's up?" There was no reply. I yelled at the screen, "Did you call him to find out?"
Tracy was beyond shocked. Angry. Hurt. Overwhelmingly sad. She confided that he had been HER ear when times were tough. That when she'd lost a job he'd teased that some people would do anything to take a vacation. There was an ocean wave of mixed emotions which had overtaken and floored her because he hadn't allowed her to return the favor. Hadn't said, "Hey, you got a minute? I need to talk."
I admitted to Tracy that I hadn't been able to sleep that night. This stranger I didn't know but who made me laugh was gone. Why? Why couldn't people reach out when they needed help? Why are we always so blind to it until later?
Tracy did a stint in the Marines and the Army: as a combat photographer. She's seen things I don't even want to contemplate and told me stories that made me cry. When Austin died, several of us made sure we touched base with her, because her grief/anger was so deep. Last night she sent several of us a message:
"I'll be off the grid for a while. Don't worry. I'm checking myself into the VA for a little mental adjustment. Can't call for 24 hours. Don't panic. I'm okay."
And I sighed in relief. Tracy is doing for herself what Austin couldn't bring himself to do: taking a proactive stance. I slept better last night.
This morning, I found something odd outside my back door. My beautiful Don Juan climbing rose only blooms in the spring. I was thinking the other day that I need to trim it back before Fall. This morning I found this:
I think it's for Tracy.
May love and hope will find a way.
We've got your six.