Facespace shows me this photo on this day every year. It’s one of my favorite places on Earth- a remote point North of Navarre, FL only accessible by a capable 4x4 or boat. It’s miles from anything and completely serene. It also features my faithful old Jeep.

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Every time I see this picture my heart sinks. I went there that day to be alone and try to sort out my mind.

I had a coworker and friend who was separating from the active duty Air Force. He had left to go back to Montana about a week before. He was the type of person who could make the shittiest day better- a young man in his early 20s who knew how to work hard, loved Jeeps, camping and cabins, and had drive to succeed. I had been on a couple of TDYs with him, I had roomed with him in Afghanistan, I drank beers with him, and I worked on his Cherokee with him in my driveway. Prior to leaving active duty he had saved up $25,000 and he was going to use the money to go camping and traveling prior to going to college with his Post-9/11 G.I. Bill to pursue an engineering degree.

I saw him on his last day of work, right before I left to spend Christmas in Minnesota. I jokingly said “so I guess I’ll never see you again!” and he told me to take good care of my XJ, since he was an XJ fanatic.

Six years and one day ago, I learned that my friend had taken his own life at the end of a rope tied to a branch by a remote trail in Montana.

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I’ve been through countless suicide prevention and bystander intervention classes that teach you to watch for warning signs. There were none aside from his tendency to withdraw from crowds, but I figured he just hated crowds. I do the same.

A couple of years later information would trickle down that he had gotten a DUI the night before, and perhaps that was what made him feel depressed and hopeless, but maybe he was trying to drink away his demons when he got caught drunk driving. We’ll never know.

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You’re a damn good bunch of people, Oppo. Take care of yourselves, know there is no situation that’s hopeless, and know there are people who care about you deeply. Take care of others and know that you can never fully understand what’s going on deep in the hollows of another’s mind, regardless of how put-together they may seem.