Coming Home: Chapter 7
....by Tammy Hooper-Scherer
*If you or a loved one is suffering with PTSD or needs help, please don't hesitate, pick up the phone and call The Sgt. Colton Levi Derr Foundation at 605-545-2505 or the Veterans Crisis Line/National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Help is always available.*
Colton and Corey, my boyfriend at the time, met at Fort Drum. They quickly became close friends and shortly after Colton moved in. What I remember most was Colton's beautiful smile. It was infectious and I recall how I'd see it spread across his face as he'd watch Corey and I dance from across the room. Colton was an old soul. Humble, sweet, polite, he'd ask Corey's permission before asking me to dance.
Colton was proud of his parents and siblings in a way I had never experienced before. He loved our country and was honored to defend it but mostly he dreamt of someday having a family, a beautiful wife, and a couple smiling kiddos.
I have this 5 second video clip of Colton proudly dancing his mom across the floor and while the video is too dark to see, I promise you his beautiful smile shone brightly that night. He adored his mom and his entire family. He carried photos of them and the Daniels' family in his truck so they were always by his side.
Corey and Colton bonded on a deep level. Shortly after Colton deployed for the last time he sent me a fb message "I get along with just about anybody, but I don't really count most people as friends, more like frequent aquaintances. Corey is an actual friend that I look forward to seeing again. That was a little gay, but whatever, haha." In the year or so Colton lived with Corey he became much more than our friend. He became family.
He didn't say much about his struggles but we knew of his pain. Colton was proud to be in the Calvary but he was suffering from PTSD and he recognized he needed time to heal before he redeployed. His request was denied.
The months before deployment Colton would listen to music all night. Ryan Bingham was among his favorites and especially seemed to ease his pain. I worried about Colton going overseas but to my surprise he seemed ok while he was gone.
Colton came home the following spring and went to South Dakota to be with his family. Corey came home several weeks later. We were all excited to see one another but I was worried about Colton. He didn't seem well again. When he took his fb page down I became concerned that he might be withdrawing but he said he was ok. The day before we met up I texted him to see how he was doing. I let him know I was worried about him and I told him when we'd be coming home. He responded briefly and let me know that he planned to start a fire the following night to warm the house for when we arrived.
The next day I picked Corey up from the airport and we began the long drive home. We were both excited as it had been more than a year since we'd been to the house together. Corey had survived his third and final deployment and he was ready for something different in his life. He had this giant smile accross his face and a look of freedom in his eyes. He truly seemed happy but as we pulled into the driveway and the car lights shown on the giant "Welcome Home" banner I had hung over the garage a few weeks prior, I had this overwhelming premonition that Colton's life had ended and ours was about to change forever. I dont know how I knew, but I knew that when we walked inside we would find Colton dead.
There was honor in the way Colton lived but there was no glory in the way he died.
Almost 5 years have passed since the night we found him but I still can't bring myself to write about what happened after we walked in the house.
Statistically at least 6 people are directly affected by each person who completes suicide. These are your kids, your spouse, your family, your friends. Each of us who tells Colton's story has been affected in a way that none of us would wish on anyone.
The most important thing I can tell you is Suicide is 100% Preventable.
You don't have to kill yourself. You don't have to suffer in silence. You don't have to put your loved ones through this. You just have to pick up the phone and be willing to accept help. I'm not suggesting it's easy. It's going to be hard but I promise you that getting help is better than whay you've been living through and its better than the alternative. There is hope.
The Sgt. Colton Levi Derr Foundation has one mission, to help ensure that other soldier's stories don't end the way Colton's did. Please pick up the phone and call and they'll help you get through the rest. It's never too late.
"I can do anything for 1 day... 1 day can turn into a lifetime." -Sgt. Colton Levi Derr Foundation