Hidden war zone scars claim another soldier's life

Published: Tuesday, June 5 2012 7:00 a.m. MDT

"He was there four or five days," recalls Robert. "I'd go there and spend all day with him. That Saturday morning I saw him, and he was upset. I told him he needed more help. I had not taken his guns. He kept them in a closet. I told him that this was getting bad and that he needed help. I got him groceries; he said he'd take a nap. A few hours later he took his own life. I went back to see him and found him. It's been the most excruciating pain I've ever felt."

Robert has spent months ruminating on the final weeks of his brother's life. He believes that despite all the programs offered by the VA, veterans fall through the cracks because there is not a protocol to follow.

"Suicide has a stigma," he says, "but it's the end of a disease process, like cancer. It happens to a lot of soldiers. Young guys go over there and do things they were taught were wrong their whole lives and then they come back and it's very difficult. We are a civilian society; most people haven't done this, so there is no understanding of what they've been through, no support network. It's like these cute little pit bulls they put in a ring to fight and maim and then they expect them to interact with kids. It doesn't work."

In the end, there is something Dale said that has stuck with his brother Robert. "He told me, 'I don't want to die; I just want the pain to stop.' "

Email: drob@desnews.com

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