Who's Left Behind When a Soldier Commits Suicide?

Becca Morrison's husband came home from Iraq and killed himself. She's "still here, and still fighting."

Who's Left Behind When a Soldier Commits Suicide?
Mark Graham

The day after her husband's funeral, a week or so after she found him, Rebecca Morrison somehow managed to get dressed and get in the car. She was exhausted, wrung out of tears. She could barely move or speak. All that week her family and friends had to feed her, bathe her, walk her to the bathroom, sleep beside her. Every few seconds she had flashbacks to the scene in their house. Each time, she screamed.

Now she and her mom had to get back from Killeen, where Ian's funeral had been held, to Dallas, where Becca's parents lived. Becca, 25 at the time, had been given a lot of medication to help her through: Xanax, Ambien, an antidepressant, things she didn't usually take. Between the meds and the grief, she could barely speak. She slumped in her seat. Her mom, Pam, drove and worried.

"Do you think you could drink a milkshake?" Pam asked.

Courtesy of Rebecca Morrison
Courtesy of Rebecca Morrison
"I miss Iraq," Ian would tell Becca. "I miss the regimen of it. I don't know how to live in this world."
Courtesy of Rebecca Morrison
"I miss Iraq," Ian would tell Becca. "I miss the regimen of it. I don't know how to live in this world."
Becca flew to New York to talk about equine therapy with soldiers there, and keeps a horse of her own.
Mark Graham
Becca flew to New York to talk about equine therapy with soldiers there, and keeps a horse of her own.
Ian spoke to elementary school kids before he was deployed to Iraq.
Courtesy of Rebecca Morrison
Ian spoke to elementary school kids before he was deployed to Iraq.

Becca said she'd try.

Pam pulled into a Braum's and ordered a tall one.

Becca took a couple sips and put it down.

A few miles went by. Becca sat up and looked at her mother.

"I need to go to Walmart right now. My dog is at Walmart."

"Honey," Pam said carefully. "Your dogs are at home. They're being taken care of."

"No. You have to go there."

Pam had no idea what Becca meant. She and Ian had two dogs together, and they were at home, being fed by a friend. But it was the first thing her daughter had asked for in a week.

"I'll try," Pam said. She hadn't slept either. On autopilot, she drove through the tiny, unfamiliar East Texas town. Somehow they found themselves in front of a Walmart.

Pam pulled in. There was a guy in a truck. He had puppies in the bed, squirming around in a playpen. Another man was standing nearby. He picked up a loud, yelping spotted one, all black and white, and looked her over. The rest of the dogs were brown.

Put her down, Pam remembers thinking. The man did. As soon as he walked off, Pam swooped in and grabbed the puppy. He looked up at her and yelped a little.

"That's my dog," Becca said.

Pam, ignoring her confusion, put the puppy in her daughter's arms. The dog licked her face. Becca, for the first time since she'd found Ian's body, took a long, deep breath.

The man with the dogs didn't want to be paid. He said he'd only been there two or three minutes when they showed up. Becca held the puppy and they got back in the car.

Trying to shrug off the weirdness of what had just happened, they started talking names.

"What about Daisy?" Pam asked.

Becca would eventually realize the last thing Ian put on her iPod was a Switchfoot song with the lines "Daisy let it go/Open up your fists/This fallen world/Doesn't hold your interest/Doesn't hold your soul." And that just after he came back from Iraq, he'd given Becca a simple Christmas gift: a ring with a daisy on it.

A few weeks later, the fog of the funeral still unsettled, Becca would get some things back from their house: a file folder with Social Security information, some bank statements and a card from a few years back. It was hand-drawn on thick, rough paper, folded into a rectangle. "Will you be my Valentine?" it asked in pretty, painstaking black cursive. On the outside, Ian had drawn a dog. It was black and white and spotted.

Becca looked at her mom, beside her in the car, the puppy sniffing contentedly between them.

Daisy.

"That's her name."


Becca Morrison is sitting in her new house, a two-story place in a quiet, half-finished Grand Prairie subdivision. The house is large and airy and immaculate, not a speck of dust or a rug corner out of place. The table is set for six, though she's not expecting company. The countertop is lined with her paintings, a hobby she took up after Ian's death.

She's 26 now, with dark blonde waves and big brown eyes that get bigger and sadder the longer she talks. She's plainspoken and self-aware, showing flashes of dry wit and a lovely, albeit occasional smile, which emerges when she remembers something goofy about Ian.

She sits very still, curled up with a pillow against her knees. Daisy, banished momentarily to the backyard, peers in through the glass door. When Daisy's inside, the dog tries her best to climb into Becca's lap, although she doesn't even remotely fit. The dog sleeps near Becca, too, and follows her around the house while she cleans or does laundry or grades her third-graders' schoolwork.

The day Becca met Daisy wasn't the last time she felt Ian's presence, pulling her through the darkest time of her life. She's still emerging from that darkness, and she's trying her best to make a roadmap others can follow. That's her mission this year, and it's landed her, among other places, in the pages of Time magazine and on a stage in front of 2,000 military medical providers. She wanted to help them understand how to better care for their soldiers, while they're deployed and when they get home. And she wants other suicide survivors to understand, as she says, "that you can live through this."

"It's helped," she says. "Going out there and trying to change the world has helped me get to a better place."

The military needs her voice now more than ever. For active-duty personnel, U.S. military suicides hit an all-time high in 2012, surpassing deaths in combat. As Becca says, matter-of-factly, "There are going to be other girls like me."

Rebecca Harrison and Ian Morrison met young, fell in love hard and married as soon as they could. Becca was 19, going to school at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, studying elementary education and meeting a lot of guys she had no interest in dating. As a joke — or perhaps as a gentle parental nudge in the right direction — her mom suggested she join an online dating site called Christian Mingle. Becca made a profile and promptly forgot all about it.

When she finally looked at the site again, months later, someone had sent her a message. To her shock, he actually looked promising. Ian was 21, blond, in military school and as devout as she was.

Back home in Delaware, he'd been a classic high-school overachiever, a careful, methodical kid who was also a gifted artist, sang in the choir, was co-captain of the swimming team and ran cross country. When they met, as Becca says with a laugh, "He was at West Point and bored out of his mind." (Morrison's family did not return several phone calls seeking comment for this article.)

They started messaging on AOL. "Back when that was cool," Becca says dryly. "That's how long ago it was." Pretty soon, they graduated to Facebook.

"Why don't you let him call you?" Pam suggested, sometime in the spring. Becca did. Their first phone conversation lasted five hours.

That summer, Ian headed from West Point to a pre-training in North Carolina. He was going to be an Army pilot, and this was the first step toward learning to fly Apache helicopters. He also wanted to meet Becca.

"I want to come see you," he told her at the end of June.

They met in Houston. It was, Becca says, love before first sight. "I knew before he even came," she says. "We both did. Then of course when I —"

She stops for a second.

"It's funny, sometimes I'll be talking and I'll forget he's dead."

She sits with that for a minute, then takes a breath and continues.

"We both knew from the beginning it was going work out," she says. "It just seemed meant to be." Nonetheless, when Ian tried to give her a kiss at the airport, she thought it prudent to deny him. She turned her head and made him kiss her on the cheek instead. He gave her a hard time about that one for years.

They drove to Dallas so Becca's parents could meet Ian right away.

"You know, I had my doubts," Pam says. "It was so sudden. He was very quiet and Rebecca's not a quiet person. I thought, how is that ever gonna work? And he wasn't used to Texas people. We weren't used to a Yankee. But you know what, he fit in like he was with us forever." Despite the July heat, which had Ian commenting, politely, that he'd never known any place on earth could be so hot, they referred to that time as "the best week ever."

The following year, Ian took Becca out to West Point's Flirtation Walk, one of the only truly private places on campus. He was so nervous he fell down and skinned his knee as he was kneeling down to present her with the ring. She said yes anyway.


It bothers Becca when people refer to her life with her husband as "charmed," as one newspaper did, or suggest they lived in some kind of idyllic wonderland before his death. "That's not the kind of people we are," she says, meaning a spotless Barbie and Ken pair who never argued, never knew adversity. Still, she says: "I had six years of real love."

A year and a half after he proposed, two days after Christmas 2008, Becca and Ian were married at First United Methodist Church in Grand Prairie, near where her parents live. Becca was radiant in a big white dress, Ian beaming in his navy blue dress uniform. The winter light in the church burned a bright white. One photo from that day is just a tight shot of Ian's face, watching his bride walk up the aisle, trying, and failing, to suppress a smile.

After a honeymoon in Santa Fe, the couple moved to Fort Rucker, the Alabama base where the Army trains pilots. It was the farthest Becca had ever been from her parents, but it still felt like home.

"It was very normal," she says. "A lot of Army life is very normal when they're not deployed." Ian attended flight school during the day. Becca taught elementary and primary school kids at a school near the base. They had two dogs, a horse and lots of friends, young marrieds like them. Everyone went to the beach a lot.

After six months, Ian was transferred to Fort Hood, in Killeen. They'd be close to Becca's parents, and it was an easy move from Alabama. Becca taught. Ian trained. They talked about having children someday.

Then, in February of 2011, he was deployed to Iraq. It was Operation New Dawn, part of the 50,000 American soldiers sent to "stabilize" Iraq. For American military personnel, anyway, it was a relatively calm time. Some 67 U.S. service members died in Iraq that year, compared with more than 6,000 during operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.

They Skyped their way through those 10 long months. Becca started graduate school for a psychology and counseling degree, and found time to send letters and constant care packages. Ian flew dozens of missions and, luckily, never took any direct fire. She only heard from him about one scary incident.

"He'd landed and they were walking away from the helicopters," she says. "Something was shot at them very close and they had to run to a bunker." Once or twice, while they were on Skype together, Ian would have to sign off quickly to take cover.

But while Ian's experience was relatively tame, some aspects of Iraq still hit him hard. "The high stress of flying that machine that many hours, at night, just being under constant threat of attack," Becca says. And like many returning soldiers, Ian struggled to get used to daily life when he came home to Copperas Cove, near Fort Hood, on Christmas Eve of 2011. The sudden calm, the vast expanses of free time: It was all very disorienting.

"He wasn't reintegrating very well," Becca says. "He had a hard time with how fortunate everybody is."

"I miss Iraq," he'd tell her. "I miss the regimen of it. I don't know how to live in this world."


"Is that your wedding ring?" Bethany asks gently. She leans across the table and takes Becca's hand, eyeing the rock. It's a delicate leaf design with a spray of diamonds in the center.

"I just started wearing it again," Becca says. "It used to make me so sad for awhile."

Bethany and Suzanne nod.

The Unfortunate Friends: That's what they call themselves. Suzanne Baty is in her 50s, with the enviable skin and perfectly placed highlights of a Mary Kay saleswoman, which she happens to be. Bethany Peterson is a couple years older than Becca, with long blonde hair, a stylish denim dress and an identical sadness in her eyes.

They're here tonight, gathered around a plate of goat cheese tots at Tillman's Roadhouse in Oak Cliff, because six months or so after their loved ones died they joined a support group for people whose spouses have killed themselves. Bonded by their shared experiences and strong Christian faith, they kept meeting after the formal sessions stopped.

"The essence of this group is that we can say whatever we want," Becca says. It feels like the saddest party in the world. The waiter frequently looks like he's not sure what to do.

"When I met you, you were wearing his ring," Bethany says.

"The inscription says, 'I love you forever,'" Becca says. She didn't believe Ian when he told her he'd had it engraved, but sure enough, she dug out a magnifying glass and there it was, in tiny letters.

"I took mine off right after Mitch died," Suzanne volunteers. "It made me so sad to put it on every morning." It's sitting in her jewelry box at home.

Bethany lost her mom to a drug overdose last May. Suzanne's husband shot himself that March. He, too, was a veteran, who'd struggled with years of pain and depression following a car accident. Both women had trouble finding people to talk to before they joined the support group. Now, Suzanne says, "I run into so many people who have dealt with suicide in the last two or three years. And I think it's not talked about, because they don't want to be judged for it. The only way to change that is to let people know that somebody in that state of mind, they're just as ill as a person with cancer. There's just no cure for it sometimes."

It's just after Memorial Day. Becca is back from a weekend in Arlington, Virginia, with the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), a nonprofit for military families who have lost loved ones. Each year it holds a National Military Survivor Seminar, as well as a camp for children who have lost parents. Becca went to different seminars on grief, then rode on the back of a motorcycle in a bikers' procession that ended in front of the Vietnam Memorial reflecting pool. And for the first time in a while, she had to deal with hearing a 21-gun salute, when she inadvertently visited the Arlington Memorial Cemetery during a funeral.

"It was a really hard, horribly good weekend," she says softly. Suzanne and Bethany sit still and let her sort through her words. "I smelled him twice in the airport, and once in the street. It burned my nose, it was so strong."

When Mitch died, Suzanne says, "I had just done all the laundry that weekend. I had nothing in the house that smelled like him."

Later, Suzanne mentions that her family marked Memorial Day by going to a ceremony at the VA cemetery where Mitch is buried. Afterward, she spread a blanket out over his grave and they all sat for a while, sharing memories. Her granddaughter looked over at her and said, "I'm sorry Granddad's gone, because you need him here with you to fix things in your new house." And she was right. Sometimes, Suzanne says, when she's struggling to change a lightbulb or move a piece of furniture, she looks over at a picture of Mitch and gives him a piece of her mind.

"I yell at Ian all the time," Becca volunteers. "We have most of our conversations in the car."

Her language gets a little salty sometimes, she says.

The women giggle and dab at their eyes.


They were in the car when Ian finally said it, when he finally breathed the syllables that are so hard to breathe: He needed to see someone, he said.

It was March 2012, a few months after Ian got home. Becca and Ian had finally taken a long-planned getaway together. They were spending a few days at Becca's parents' house when the couple realized something was wrong. Ian wasn't sleeping. He wasn't hungry. He didn't want to work out, and he'd worked out all the time. He thought he needed to make an appointment with a psychiatrist.

Becca agreed. But she knew from her psychology training — and from the never-ending flood of stories about soldiers with mental-health issues — that she needed to ask some hard questions right away.

"Are you homicidal or suicidal?"

They'd had this conversation before. A mutual friend had killed herself. Ian told Becca, with no hesitation, "I would never do that to you." And his answer hadn't changed.

"No, not at all," he said, looking her right in the eyes.

The following Monday, Ian showed up at the Thomas Moore Clinic at Fort Hood and waited for more than three hours, she says. Finally, someone told him that because he flew helicopters, they couldn't see him there. He'd have to see his flight surgeon instead. He was sent away empty-handed, Becca says. (Officials at Fort Hood did not respond to multiple interview requests.)

When he finally did see the flight surgeon that afternoon, Becca says, Ian came home complaining that the man was brusque and cold. He prescribed him Ambien, grounded him from flying helicopters — a huge blow to a pilot — and told him to come back in a week. Ian also tried the next day to enroll in a sleep study on the base and was told there'd be no openings for a month.

Two days later, Ian saw a second flight surgeon. This one quickly diagnosed him with major depression, then gave him prescriptions for antidepressants and anti-anxiety meds.

Recognizing the seriousness of that diagnosis, Becca urged Ian to go to the R&R clinic on the base, their equivalent of an emergency room. He did, talking to her on the phone the whole way there. But he soon left after being told that the wait was more than two hours. He drove home instead, where he waved to the couple's neighbor, parked the car in the garage and went inside. He left his shoes lined up neatly by the door.

The couple had been texting back and forth all day; in late afternoon, heading into her evening classes and still worried, Becca suggested Ian call a 24-hour military crisis hotline called Military OneSource. He promised that he would. About 45 minutes later, he texted her to say that he was still on hold. At 7 p.m. or so, while she was leading a group therapy session and couldn't pick up the phone, he called. He didn't leave a message.

Becca got home a few hours later. She walked into their bedroom and found his body surrounded by blood, a handgun lying nearby.


Anna Toquero was just about to get into bed at her house in Killeen when her phone lit up. Her husband, James, another Apache pilot, had been deployed with Ian in Iraq, and their wives had grown close while the men were away. James had been deployed before, so Anna helped Becca prepare, telling her what was normal, making sure she didn't worry when she couldn't get hold of Ian for a few hours.

Anna picked up the phone. It was Becca. She was hysterical.

"We didn't believe it was true," Anna recalls. "We thought maybe that she thought that it happened and it really didn't." She told her husband what she'd heard on the phone, but with a caveat: "Please don't call anyone from work," she said. "Maybe she thinks she sees something that she doesn't."

The Toqueros rushed to make the 35-minute drive to the Morrisons' house. Anna quickly took Becca to a neighbor's place. James waited while medical personnel took Ian's body away.

"How did this happen?" Becca kept asking. And, "Is this real? Why, why?"

Anna's fears — that Ian would get in trouble for attempting suicide — weren't unfounded. For young soldiers still working their way up the chain of command, admitting a mental health problem isn't seen as a wise career move.

In 2010, a former Marine named Lazzaric Caldwell was given six months in the brig, dishonorably discharged and court-martialed after he attempted suicide by slitting his wrists while on a base in Okinawa. Although his conviction — for bringing "discredit on the armed forces" — was overturned, it was still an undeniable message to many active-duty service members and veterans.

"I didn't want him to get in trouble if it wasn't true," Anna says. "I thought maybe he accidentally did something and he'd get in trouble if the Army thought he'd tried to. I didn't believe that he killed himself."

Anna, who also grew up in a military family, says there's also a stigma in the ranks for military members who admit to having mental health issues. "It's pride," she explains, "and a fear of your peers picking at you. In the Army, the group of guys you're close to are like your brothers. There's a fear you'll get picked on."

Becca's parents arrived soon after the Toqueros did. Everyone quickly went into crisis mode, closing ranks around Becca. She kept flashing back to the scene in their bedroom. The next morning one of her professors from her grad school psychology program came over. She did a type of rapid-eye movement therapy called EMDR, which is believed to help calm PTSD symptoms.

"All Rebecca could see was the blood all the time," Pam says. "It was a vision that kept coming. She'd shudder and shake. You could see it."

The first few weeks after Ian's death were a strange, horrible, heavily medicated fog, punctuated by emergency counseling sessions and people trying to get Becca to eat and sleep. "There were about two weeks where a whole bunch of people were surrounding me and I was just in limbo," Becca says. She started taking Ambien regularly. "My friend said when it kicked in, I'd start talking about suicide." When it wore off, she never talked about harming herself. After a few weeks, she stopped taking medication.

"I don't think it was planned," she says of Ian's death. "I think it was Ambien and PTSD and no sleep." Despite his anxieties, she says, "He was normal and wonderful till the day he died."

It also didn't fit her husband's character, she says. "Ian could not handle watching me cry. He couldn't handle it when I was upset. He would do anything." A couple weeks before, they'd had a minor argument. She started to cry and he came over, picked her up, and asked, desperately, "How can I fix this?"

The night he died, Becca says, "I know he was out of his mind. He never would've wanted that. That I found him. The trauma and the pain that it caused me." She still declines to discuss the scene in her bedroom, saying only, "What I saw was traumatic. I've only discussed it with my therapist. There's no benefit in telling the gory details. It doesn't help me and it doesn't help anybody who hears it."

After her own experience with the drug, Becca believes the Ambien played a role in Ian's suicide. Ambien's package insert warns that in "primarily depressed patients," the drug can cause "worsening of depression, including suicidal thoughts and actions (including completed suicides)." In people exhibiting symptoms of depression, the FDA recommends the drug be administered "with caution." Although there are no longitudinal studies yet on the links between Ambien use and suicide, a 2012 Scripps Health study found a five-fold increase in the risk of early deaths among heavy users of sleep aids, including Ambien. People who took 18 sleeping pills or fewer per year were still at risk, they said, about 3.5 times higher than the control group. (Sanofi, the company that makes Ambien, has called the drug "safe and effective.")

But Becca also blames the military. "He tried to get help six different times," she says. "He was a captain, a West Point graduate, an Apache pilot. Pilots never ask for help. Officers never ask for help, and he was. That should've been 5,000 red flags, and it wasn't. He'd never been sick before, never asked for time off."

For the first time, she sounds bitter. "He got really terrible treatment from the Army, and that's why he's not here. If anybody had given a damn about him, he'd be here. He left his wife and he had so much to live for. He was not the kind of guy that wanted to die."

When she finally looked at his phone, she saw this it was full of plans, including a scheduled trip to play golf with a friend, and an appointment the following week to get Invisalign braces.

"He got really sick and he just didn't have anyone to take care of him," she says. "He just felt like he wasn't going to get any help." (Officials at Fort Hood declined to comment.)

When Becca emerged some from her initial shock, she picked up the phone and called TAPS, whose number she'd been given a few days after the funeral. The first person she spoke to was Kim Ruocco, the nonprofit's director for Suicide Postvention and Survivor Support. As Becca poured out her story, Ruocco said, over and over, "Oh honey, I know."

Ruocco, too, is a suicide survivor. Her husband of 15 years was U.S. Marine Corps Major John Ruocco, a decorated Cobra helicopter pilot. He hanged himself in 2005, while awaiting redeployment to Iraq.

When Ruocco's husband died, she says, "I felt like my loss was different than anyone's." The first time she went to a TAPS event, before she joined the organization, a woman approached her. She was making a quilt of pictures of military personnel who'd been killed in action.

"How do I get my husband on there?" Kim asked her. The woman asked a couple questions about John's death. Then she looked Kim over and said, flatly, "This quilt is for heroes."

"I felt my heart breaking," Ruocco says.

She was eager to share her story with Becca, though, and to let her know that she'd made it through, and that she was, "OK, to a point," as she puts it. It's especially important to discuss that, she says, because the risk for someone who's just lost a loved one to suicide to harm themselves is very high.

"You can survive this," Ruocco told Becca, in those early days. "Other people out there will help you do it."


Becca's been sitting on her couch for a long time, talking and remembering, and she's starting to look exhausted, leaning deeper into the couch. Soon she'll drive to her mom's house, to eat dinner and recharge. Her therapist compares each day's emotional challenges to a pie. "You can only have one pie a day," Becca says. "If it all gets depleted, you're wasted. You have to do things to put the pie back." Doing interviews about Ian takes a lot of pie out of her.

Three months to the day after Ian's death — just weeks after earning her master's degree on time — Becca started telling his story publicly. The first time was onstage at the Defense Centers of Excellence's annual suicide-prevention conference. The DCOE is a government organization that provides psychological help to service members. Becca got onstage in front of an audience of thousands of military medical professionals and told them, as calmly as she could and in great detail, how their system had failed Ian.

"She really wanted the military to understand what they had lost by not helping him," says Kristen Keller, one of Becca's closest friends. "They'd invested a lot of time and money into training him, but they couldn't invest an hour into diagnosing or treating him properly?"

Becca says she tried to talk to Ian's flight surgeon but has never been allowed to. She doesn't even know his name.

"All I wanted to do was talk to him and no one would let me," she says. "I didn't want to kill him. I just wanted to talk to him about how important his job is. How many lives he has in his hands." She has been told by other soldiers on the base — but hasn't been able to confirm– that the flight surgeon now keeps a picture of Ian in his office.

Over the last couple of years, as the military has tried to step up its suicide prevention efforts, Ian and Becca's story was suddenly timely. Ian's photo was everywhere, handsome in a gray dress uniform with gold buttons, his wedding ring shining. Becca flew to New York to take part in an equine therapy program for soldiers there, where she spoke to a local paper about the healing power of horseback riding.

But the stories tend to stop where Ian died. Becca has found herself portrayed, over and over again, as a pretty young widow, sad in her big empty house, dispensed with in a sentence or two. "You aren't what has happened to you," she says. "It's not who you are. It shapes you a little bit. But I'm not suicide. I'm not widow personified. I just keep moving forward."

Some people couldn't understand why she kept talking so openly about her husband. A few months after the equine therapy story came out, a woman who worked for the program left a nasty comment on Becca's Facebook page.

"Let your husband be dead and buried," she wrote. "Stop digging him up for publicity."

"Nobody talks about it, especially like I've been talking about it," Becca says. "You just drop off the face of the earth after you lose someone. I'm still here, and still fighting. It's a battle every day." The main things that have helped her, she says, are TAPS and her suicide survivor support group.

"You feel like you're insane, you know?" she says, speaking slowly, trying to put it into words. "Like you're the only person in the world that this has ever happened to." TAPS especially, she says, "helped me to feel human again."

Now she's trying her best to light the way for other people like her, military spouses who lose their husbands and wives to suicide, because she knows they're inevitable.

"I want people like me to know what it's like," she says. "Someone has to be there and hold the torch for someone else. I'd feel honored if I can do that. That's the only reason I've done any of that so far. To keep this awful thing from happening anymore." Everywhere she goes, she shares the things that have worked for her: counseling, EMDR, caring for her pets, exercise, support groups, surrounding herself with friends and loved ones and God.

And in talking and talking and talking about Ian and suicide and prevention and hope, she's found herself, slowly, in a much better place. "I've kinda kicked butt this year," she says, with a little laugh. Next year, she's decided, she won't return to teaching. She wants to use her psychology training to help military kids who lost their parents to suicide. She's seen a lot of those kids at TAPS events, she says, and they've been inspiring: "There's so much hope in kids who have lost someone. They still see the world as a wonderful place."

Last week, she heard that another West Point graduate killed himself. She's waiting a little while to reach out to his wife, but she knows what she'll tell her, just as Kim Ruocco told her: "You can survive this. Fight for your life, because you're still alive."

It's a mantra meant to help heal the wound, but it also reminds her of Ian, of a conversation she and Ian had just before he deployed.

"You've got to be so careful," she told him. "Take care of yourself. I know you're smart, but be extra smart. Don't get cocky. You have to come home and be here. I'd just die if something happened to you."

"I'll be careful," he told her lightly. "But your life wouldn't end if I died. You'd be real sad for a while, but you'd eventually move forward."

"We're not talking about that today," Becca told him, and changed the subject.

Show Pages
 
My Voice Nation Help
17 comments
bvckvs
bvckvs topcommenter

I couldn't understand what went wrong in his mind - until I read that he was a militant Christian.

It must be very hard to reconcile God's prohibition against killing, with the Evangelical passion for warfare.

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

War Criminals ... doing society a favor.


Willie
Willie

Well done.  Thanks for the fine story.

Kristin Haggard
Kristin Haggard

Rocky Top Therapy in Keller offers equine therapy through their Horses for Heroes program. Great program for DFW-area vets. Ask for Brooke.

Danni McCarthy
Danni McCarthy

That is so horrible and I haven't even read it yet!

Anna Merlan
Anna Merlan

Thank you guys so much for reading. Becca also wanted me to mention that TAPS operates a national helpline for suicide survivors in crisis: 800-959-TAPS. She says, " If you are in crisis please call. Get help. Reach out. You are important."

Genevieve Kissinger
Genevieve Kissinger

I haven't read something that hit me like a ton of bricks like this in months..

Brian Whitson
Brian Whitson

damned shame. Too many are going this route. War is hell. Esp. a sham like Iraq. R.I.P.

Joshua Jennifer Faught
Joshua Jennifer Faught

This is why Pathways, www.createagreatlife.org , and "Soldiers Serve with Heart" have such an interest in helping those who return home to bring them ALL THE WAY HOME.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

NVRS 5/5 well done, a sad story to read for sure.  And sad to hear this is your last story for the Observer.  Good luck you in your endeavors and let us know where you go.  We must never let the Vagina rating die.  I can only imagine what the new vagina writer for the observer will think the first time she sees that rating

mcdallas
mcdallas

@bvckvs Wow, you are so militantly anti-Christian.  I assume that extends to all other religions.  But thanks for at least being sensitive about it.

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@bvckvs ... and that his soul in now burning in Hellfire for eternity for the heinousness war crimes he participated in.

... or for gross hypocrisy. 

Anna_Merlan
Anna_Merlan

@ScottsMerkin She'll have to decide, as I did, whether to be offended or amused. I'm glad I went with the second one. 

 
Loading...