I get a lump in my throat.

I took this picture on January 9, 2013. I went out to one of my favorite remote spots to be alone and process what had just happened.

“DM” was a young man I knew pretty well. I had worked with him for a few years, had gone on TDY with him, and had roomed with him in Kandahar Afghanistan. He was a hard worker, loved the outdoors (we would spend hours looking at www.cabinporn.com on slow nights at work), was outgoing, friendly and just an all-around rock-solid person. He owned a really nice XJ, so we spent a lot of time BS-ing about all things Jeep. He had a big plan to move back to Montana, take a year off with the $30,000-ish he had saved up, then use his GI bill to get an engineering degree. Just before Christmas, he left the military. I saw him right before I went on leave to spend Christmas with family in Minnesota. He stopped by my house, we shot the shit, I helped him diagnose a steering issue on his XJ, we said our farewells, and that was that.

When I came back to Florida, I got an early morning call from another friend... a friend who only calls at that hour to deliver horrible news...

About a week after returning to his home state of Montana, DM went out into the woods and hanged himself. He was found by a hiker.

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He’s the reason I’ll never sell my Jeep, and he’s the reason I get PISSED OFF every time I have to take a bullshit suicide prevention training. Thinking back on the times I spent with him, there was never a single warning sign.

Folks, if you’re depressed and have thoughts of hurting yourself, GET HELP. It’s been said so many times... It’s incredible how a person can hide their demons and live with them seeming so normal for so long until it’s too late. Suicide rips a hole through the lives of everyone who cared about you even slightly. It leaves a stain on your memory... I can’t even remember my friend without so many unanswered questions coming back, and just getting angry about it all. Sadly , being a veteran, this is far from the only story I can tell of someone I cared about taking his own life— it’s just the one that sticks with me the most.

This is especially difficult today of all days. I spent my afternoon on a search party for a missing person. Another man who wears an Air Force uniform. He didn’t report to drill this weekend, his car was found not far from his house with his cell in it, and he hasn’t been heard from since Saturday. It’s all very uncharacteristic of him. I’m bracing for the worst, but I pray to God he’s found okay and soon.