I don’t know how to stop veteran and active duty military suicide. I don’t know how to stop any kind of suicide. I know part of my brother’s story, though, and maybe somewhere in there is an answer. He started writing a book in the early spring of 2013. He attempted to explain the sickness plaguing the Marine Corps. He never finished his book.
In his own words:
“I am no Chesty Puller. I am no Hero. I am no shitbag. I am a Marine that is retired from the business of keeping his mouth shut. I’m just telling the truth behind the things I saw and my Marine Corps experience. I am telling what I see causing the sickness and depression inside our Corps and how I’ve seen my brothers, some wounded Warriors support the efforts to fix the problems from the outside that our Government will not recognize.”
He has written more about his experience on his website All Around Intensity Fitness.
———-Tuesday, October 15, 2013. ——-
My brother was spray painting a pair of motorcycle helmets with a matte black paint. I told him to go closer by the woods, since the fumes were drifting toward the house. I went for a walk to the end of the driveway, and turned to look back at the house. Standing there, on the ground at the end of the driveway, the house was clearly visible. I walked back toward the house and stopped by the woods where my brother was painting.
“They definitely lied,” I said.
He nodded in agreement. For a moment he paused, looking down at the helmets, and I didn’t think he would respond.
Then he asked, “why?”
I told him that you could see the house easily from the ground. Without a doubt it could be seen just as well from the air. Earlier that morning, after we spoke to the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force , they went over to the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) facility and had someone from CBP call us to explain a helicopter flyover. My only conclusion to their explanation was that they must have lied.
Several months before this conversation– July 5, 2013– a helicopter operated by Customs and Border Protection flew up our driveway, parallel to the power lines, and then circled three times over the very woods where my brother was standing– the woods which separated the front pasture from our private yard. The helicopter flew over us at less than 40 ft altitude (the height of our utility pole), perhaps the same distance– 40 ft– from the front porch of our house. I called FAA, outraged that anyone was allowed to fly that low. We were not close enough to the airport to justify that. I was told by FAA that they couldn’t do anything about government aircrafts, and that I would have to call CBP directly. I did. By CBP, I was told that the flyover was part of an investigation.
The October 15th, 2013 explanation was that there was an unanticipated low cloud ceiling and the helicopter operator was forced to fly at a much lower altitude than usual. He made three circles to get his bearings, then flew back to the airport.
On the phone with them, my brother asked: “do you make any effort to avoid people and houses on the ground?”
“Yes, we do,” was the officer’s terse response.
Looking at it from the end of the driveway, I could not understand how an operator with any intention to avoid disturbing residents on the ground would fly along the driveway leading toward the house, when the house could be plainly seen from 300ft away. He circled the woods 3 times, flying through our yard each time. Our trailer was shaking violently. He could have simply veered into one of the surrounding fields instead— we have 17 acres of open pasture– if it were a matter of getting his bearings straight.
But I’ve never operated a helicopter before so maybe I’m just mistaken.
My brother finished painting the helmets. He painted 3 of them, one for me, one for Seth, and one for himself. He told me we’d have to get one for my 4 year old son, too, but for now he could use one of ours.
“They won’t stop a bullet, but they’ll still be helpful.”
My brother was getting us prepared for a fire fight. He was certain that the FBI, or another branch of Homeland Security, would be dispatched soon– most likely to take him, because he was a veteran. He was convinced that they would not spare any one of us, though.
He was troubled over the fact that he had recently had surgery for an infection on his right hand. He was on antibiotics that made him “feel weird.” He couldn’t use his thumb, and the reality sank in that he might not be at his prime when it mattered most. I remember how somber he was that day. How his mood had changed since the hours earlier, when he had been cooking pancakes in his swim shorts, joking and lighthearted.
I was concerned and relieved. My brother was looking out for us. He must know things about the government that we didn’t know. He knew his own training, his own capacities, and that there were other men out there with the same kind of training who might be ready, even eager, to use their training against civilians here in the US. Against us.
I mean, it was clear that the flyover must have been intentional, if not a sign of absolute recklessness. I didn’t need my brother to point that out to me. We had just been visited by the FBI as domestic terrorism suspects because we had been persistent to inquire about the flyover and because my brother was a well-trained veteran Staff Sergeant in the Marines who had been making videos to demonstrate tactical weapons training… that scared them the most. Not only were we upset, but at least one of us was very upset and very skilled.
I sat on the steps and watched him finish cleaning and prepping vests and other protective gear that we would use if it became necessary. When he was done, he walked over to me, calmly explaining how we would use each item and where we would store it in the meantime for quick access.
He looked at me intensely. “We need more Marines down here.”
Those words struck me more deeply than anything else he had said. He was losing confidence in himself. He needed his brothers.
We weren’t living in a mutual paranoid delusion. This was reality. Naturally, we had no capacity to know what it meant for the future. Perhaps the FBI really did determine that we were mostly harmless individuals with some political views rooted in suspicion and cynicism. Or perhaps we seemed more of a threat than we thought. And if so, then what would they do?