In “Military Suicides Are Causing Civilian Casualties, Too,” McClatchy Newspapers Regional Correspondent Halimah Abdullah writes that, when it comes to suicide in the military, “the numbers don’t tell the whole story.”
Long after the flag-draped coffins are lowered into the ground, families … are left to measure their grief in a seemingly endless stretch of days marked by missed birthdays, anniversaries, weddings and babies’ first steps.
“I think we need to realize that we have families that are under such great stress,” Deborah Mullen, the wife of Adm. Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told more than 1,000 military and federal health care workers at a suicide prevention conference in January. “This stress is only going to continue. We need to be able to give tools to family members who are left behind.”
The McClatchy story focuses on the family of Army Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Wimmer, who died last summer at Fort Benning, Ga., after a long, downward spiral into depression.
“From the moment I met him, I knew he suffered from issues of depression,” [said his widow, Jennifer Wimmer]. “When I told him that he needed to get some help, he said, ‘I can’t do that. It will damage my career.'”
Jennifer did everything she could to help her husband, and eventually his depression and suicidal behavior came to the Army’s attention, and Sgt. Wimmer was hospitalized at one point and was later encouraged to take an extended leave of absence to get additional help. But in the end,
Daniel Wimmer’s suicide ripped a hole in the gossamer fabric of his family’s life. His wife used to sit in his truck for hours, inhaling his fresh-out-of-the-shower scent, which still lingered on the seats. She finally sold the truck, no longer able to bear the reminder of how it often spirited him away from her.
His oldest daughter Sara, 15, puts on a brave front and tries to help her mother with the younger children. His middle daughter, 8-year-old Alexandra, is angry and often sleeps with his shirt at night to console herself and writes poetry and songs about her dad.
“As long as a soldier does his job, everything is good, then when something like this happens the family is chastised, too, and it’s like, ‘Well, what did she do? How could she have prevented this? Spouses are looked at very harshly,” Jennifer Wimmer said.
“It hurts me more because I was so proud to be married to my husband, and he was such a dedicated, decorated soldier. I still believe in our Army, our military. But it hurts.”
[The abridged URL for this post is bit.ly/militarywidow .]
Related SPNAC posts:
- Feb. 16, 2010 — “Family’s Journey Emblematic of Military Suicide Survivors” — http://tinyurl.com/RuoccoFamily
- May 25, 2009 — “TAPS Reaches Out To Military Families Grieving after Suicide” — http://tinyurl.com/TAPS-reaches
- Apr. 5, 2009 — “Military, Veteran Stories Focus on Personal Impact of Suicide” — http://tinyurl.com/PersonalImpact
- Mar. 24, 2009 — “Culture of Stigma Is a Key Cause of Military, Veteran Suicides” — http://tinyurl.com/StigmaMilitary