8 APR 2017
April 8, 2012 was a warm spring Easter day. Haley, Wyatt and Josephine made the trip home from college; little sister Audra (the surprise child) was ready to have her older siblings back under one roof.
Colton was safely home from his final mission to Afghanistan; our prayers had been answered. Although, just twenty short sunsets from this day would find Colton dead by suicide. Safe has many meanings and proved to be as fleeting as Colton’s life.
This is the last picture I have with all of my children together. Colton had been home for less than a week and I could sense the effects of PTSD beginning to tug at his soul. He was tense on this particular day. I held the camera waiting for his wry grin to come out…but I could see he was struggling.
These feelings were not new to Colton; he had battled them since his Iraq mission. Before Colton deployed to Afghanistan, he was again fighting the demons of PTSD and a subsequent deep depression. He and I had an open dialogue about his struggles and he agreed to give counseling another shot while at Fort Drum, NY. He was actually flagged as non-deployable due to his mental health issues. This however was not supported by his chain-of-command and they marked him as deployable (mission essential) and narrated on his deployment paperwork that they would “monitor the soldier in theater.”
Colton wanted to deploy. It may be hard for some to comprehend, but I knew he would be entirely men and mission focused while he was in the battlefield. Coming home proved to be more menacing than the Taliban.
Thus, I knew when Colton came home that ‘plugging’ back in would be a challenge. I took the next few days off from work and just stayed at home while Colton ran his personal errands and got ready for a trip to Texas to visit friends. I waited for him to open up and he did. “Dad, I don't know why I feel the way I do, I’m trying to control it - but I’m having a hard time.”
We talked….more to come.