Military life can be challenging. Frequent deployments and temporary duties, constantly moving to different commands all around the globe, and never staying in one location or with the same people for very long takes its toll on the service member and their family. As long as I had my family, I knew I could do it. No matter what life threw at me, no matter how hard things got, I knew I would always have that, or so I thought.
When I decided to join, I was newly married to my girlfriend of six years and had a five-year-old son. I was working two jobs and going to college full time. I needed to make a change; I was at the edge of what I could handle, some nights only getting three hours of sleep.
My wife and I wanted to start a family and wanted more children. I needed to do something worthwhile in order to support us. The military was a family tradition and seemed like the best option, and after discussing it with my wife, I enlisted in the U.S. Air Force.
Over the years, my service has put a lot of strain on our family, but it was what I had to do to serve my country and provide a good life for my wife and three children. Family is my priority.
I always say that the best thing I ever did with my life was becoming a dad. No matter how rough my day had been, hearing my children yell “Daddy!” and come running to me when I got home would always make it a good day, so when I heard those four little words “I want a divorce,” I didn’t know what to do. It shattered my life.
The life I had worked so hard to build had become meaningless in an instant. The woman that I loved had decided that she no longer loved me and, because of that, would leave with my children.
This meant that I would never live with my children again. No more waking up my daughter in the morning, no more wrestling with the boys, no more movie night snuggled up under one blanket together, only rare opportunities and visitation to actually be part of their lives.
The thought of being without my kids and losing my wife was too much for me to handle. Making matters worse, my wife was also leaving me with a significant amount of debt, all while having to pay more than half my base pay in child support. I saw no way out, so I decided to end my life.
Unlike many suicides, there were no outward signs, no cries for help. Even those closest to me had no idea what I was planning to do.
On the day I promoted to technical sergeant, I looked out to the crowd and saw only strangers. What should have been one of the proudest moments of my life was empty without my children. That night, I sat in bed alone writing notes to those I loved the most. I apologized for taking the coward’s way out and explained to them all that I was sorry, but they would be better off without me; that a part of me was still in Afghanistan, and the part of me that returned was meaningless without my family.
The devil inside me had won the battle. In the final part, I begged my soon-to-be ex-wife to not let the children into the bedroom because I would be dead inside by the time she discovered the note.
Suddenly, I was interrupted and failed to carry out my suicide. My wife called my supervisor, who took me to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center where I was evaluated and brought to the in-patient psychiatry ward, also called “9 Charlie” by its residents. This would be my home for the next two weeks.
I was scared. I didn’t know what was going to happen to me and didn’t think things could get any worse. All I could think about was what my kids were going to think of me. How was this going to affect my career? How could I support them if I get kicked out because of this? How could I look into the eyes of my loved ones or the people I work with ever again?
I was at the lowest point in my life. I didn’t yet see the light at the end of my tunnel. Little did I know, my salvation was just around the corner.
Editor’s Note: This article is part two of a three-part commentary depicting the story of an Airman struggling with the return from deployment, divorce and attempted suicide. The name of the individual has been changed or removed to protect the identities of those involved.