The Forgotten Hero IV by Marsha Ortega

by Marsha Ortega This is the story of an American family at war and the son whose life, and then death, are haunted by the specter of PTSD.

by Marsha Ortega
This is the story of an American family at war and the son whose life, and then death, are haunted by the specter of PTSD.

Bama’s Story

A Cry for Help

bama's story

He was born. He lived for 21 earth years.  He died tragically, 2 months before his 22nd birthday.

What happened in between is the story.

As a baby he ate voraciously; sometimes not satisfied.  As a toddler he devoured his food and chocolate cake on special occasions with a glazed eye.  He laughed strongly and he cried when favorite stories ended (time to rewind the tape or retell the story).

Looking back, were these the signs of the end of his life?

Brent was born handsome and left this earth just as handsome and exceptional.  Always looking for the meaning of what you said.  “What does that mean? “Or “What do you mean?” were his classic responses.  His superiority was a spotlight from him to whoever was in his line of vision or hearing.

How does it happen that a human so endowed with seemingly natural gifts could find drugs so relieving to their life?  These are not suicides.  These are brains that are not functioning with the normal cautions.  The survival instincts that warn us of danger have been nullified.  These are not choices.  These are malfunctions or nonexistent signals that most of us would heed in an instant.

I wish I could have fixed him.  All I have left is to relish the memories of a very special grandson who was a pure joy to be with from the moment he was born.

My memory…Brent was born, # 2 grandchild, healthy appetite, very cuddly.  By the time he was 6 months he and I were very close. I was his Bama.  I would drive to Crest Hill to pick him up so Mom could go to work while big brother was in school.  The drive was long and I liked classical music so he would be next to me in his car seat set backwards.  When Beethoven came on he would be real mellow, very relaxed.   He grew very close to Papa and by the time he was 4 years old he liked fishing.  At five he played pinochle with us.  Brent had his quiet times, times when he just wanted to be alone, especially when we all sat down for a meal.  For some reason he did not want to sit with all of us and I would get upset, but Papa told me to leave him alone.  So I did.

Brent and Tico and Papa and I did a lot of things together during their younger years.  Mom and Dad worked long hours so we had the boys almost every week-end.  While fishing was a main attraction for Papa, mine was more classical and cooking.  We took the boys to Orchestra Hall for Peter and the Wolf and then Hansel and Gretel. Brent really enjoyed it.  As I remember it he had questions during and after both performances.  Brent had questions about everything.  He would ask to define a word he just heard when he was just 2 or 3 years old.  It seemed like he wanted things to be in order so he could understand.

While I know he loved his brother Tico, he sometimes would flare up at him.  Brent and Papa just liked to be quiet doing their thing, fishing or just watching a TV show.  Tico had lot energy so he and I would go outside and toss a ball at the bat.  Brent wasn’t into the sports at a young age like Tico was.  That came later for Brent.

When they were around 10-12 years old we went golfing and bowling a few times.  As usual, I would try to correct their errors so they could improve.  Tico was fine with my suggestions but Brent resented them.  I think Brent just wanted to be the best.  He didn’t like disappointment.

But Halloween was different!  Brent and his brothers loved that holiday.  Marsha brought them over for trick or treat every year until they were older and had friends in Romeoville.

As is expected, once children reach their teens, they drift away from the family as they try to make their mark in their school.  I think Brent had a hard time with it.  Being really smart he may have been more critical of the other kids.  I think he learned to stay in himself by reading. I know he got involved with marijuana and we were all heartbroken but he went into therapy.  We visited him every Saturday and he progressed very well.

When he decided to join the Illinois National Guard, he had a purpose.  He found what he thought would be the place for him; the discipline was the most important aspect for him.  He and I had conversations about this.  Sometimes he would talk to me about my experiences in the Navy as if he and I were of the same mind.  He assumed I knew exactly what he was thinking and doing while in training and again in Afghanistan.  He would call me from some high mountain area or when he was in his barracks. I did not sense that he was unhappy, just alone.

When Brent would invite you in to his world it was so friendly, almost a feeling of being safe. I truly loved being with him. You felt like he was in charge and he would watch over you no matter what.

In his last days, that sense of caring still came through.  Whatever drugs he was taking did not take away his humanity.  I am so sorry for not being able to understand or help him.  I have to live with this the rest of my life, the feeling of helplessness.  I was not strong enough to do what needed to be done.

Looking back, Brent was a loner.  He knew right from wrong, he analyzed everything and everybody but I don’t think he could accept disappointment.  Not in himself or if we were disappointed in him.

I really think that had he lived on he would have come to terms with his perception of himself and the world around him.  I know that he is now in God’s hands and that he is loved.  We will meet again.

pt 4-2

The Reason

It’s now October 2013, it’s absolutely beautiful outside; the leaves are falling and beginning to change color.  It’s almost 2 years now in a month and a half since my boy went on to his next journey.  As I stated before I began this book about 14 months after he passed.   I took a 2 month break from writing; I guess because working outside and doing yard work is very therapeutic for me.  I can’t tell you how many times I would be writing or reviewing and have to stop because the tears wouldn’t allow me to see.

We just got done closing down our business, too, after 14 years.  There are many reasons for that decision, but for me, after Brent died I just couldn’t deal with it anymore and so I emotionally walked away.  Physically too, but I still worked as a fill in for Bobby, Adolfo, my brother-in-law or my son Tico.  I’m actually glad that we’re not involved anymore.  I also, feel that my angel Brent helped on that; I mean what are the chances that the new owner’s name is Brent.  I truly believe he did that so I could be free and get on with whatever I’m supposed to do.

The government is at a shutdown at this time; which oddly enough helps explain the reason for this book.  The men and women that are in the military these days have all volunteered; there is no draft.  They knowingly sign their life to the government which will not provide the care they need.  I know you may laugh at this statement but it’s gotten so out of hand.  The soldiers should be taken care of properly; they are due that.

So many of them are dying, not just on deployment, but when they come home, they bring the war with them to the point it kills them and yet the ones that die here aren’t recognized as heroes; they are the forgotten ones.  I hope that by me introducing you to Brent you got to know him a little and understood that he may have had his challenges but he was no weak individual.  He was strong and brave both mentally and physically.

The pain and agony that my family and I have gone through has been devastating.  It’s been almost 2 years and yet we are still in pain every day.  This time of year is rough on us because it’s when it all started up (My mom, Jess and I spoke of this recently).  I can’t say that every member of my family is suffering but I can tell you that it’s been very difficult.  When losing a son or another member of the family that you are close with, you just don’t get over it.  I don’t just deal with the pain of my loss, I also have to watch my son Tico who has never been the same, as matter of fact I kept trying to talk to him but he’s Mr. Private, he always has been.  It took him about a year until he fell apart emotionally and made some bad choices.  Fortunately he seems to be doing better, but the smile is gone from his eyes.  His eyes used to smile; now I see the pain or emptiness.  But I believe each passing day I see him improve.

My oldest on the other hand dove down right away.  Granted many of his problems were created prior to Brent’s dying but he literally dove down.  I couldn’t believe how much his life spiraled down.  I thought that God really was testing him because I don’t know how he survived everything without going a little crazy.  It also caused him a lot of problems with the family, that he still needs to work through, but I have faith he will one day.   He finally seems to be on the right track now but at the same time he has withdrawn seems from the family.

My mom, who has always been a strong person, whom I greatly admire has her periodic breakdowns, I know she has more, but they are done privately.  I remember the other day when she called me to let me know about a dedication that is being done on a park bench in her town for my dad a Korean War vet and my son.  Its right by her house and it’s where my dad used to take Brent and Tico fishing.  Well my mom lost it and began to cry about how she thought she’s never going to get over this.  All I could say was that I understood.

My sister Angela will just break down and cry, which of course makes it hard on her kids, but they’re very good at helping her when she breaks down.

My sister Tina has had her hands full shortly after Brent died and she’s still dealing with her challenges.  She’s the kind that won’t cry either in front of people but you can see it in her face.

My dear sweet Jessica has now met someone, but still doesn’t go a day without thinking of Brent.  She now has his car with the bass system that he had put in.  It takes up the whole trunk. I always knew when he was coming because I could hear that boom boom sound of the bass.  I know she suffers but also is trying to continue her life.  I know how much she misses my boy.

We recently were discussing the time of year it was and how it affects us, end of August it begins and I don’t know when it ends; it doesn’t end but some days are better than others.

My husband Bobby; how can I describe him; he’s very good at hiding his feelings.  He has his moments; I think now will be a little rougher because now he doesn’t have the business.  I believe as long as he keeps busy he’s okay, but he still has his breakdowns.  I honestly don’t know how he was able to go back to work as soon as he did and kept on going, but he did.

Maybe you are thinking that we need help; it’s not that.  There’s only one thing that could help, but that’s impossible, so we just have to deal with it on a day to day basis.  We continue our lives, we do what we have to do, but there’s this pain, this void, a part of your heart just ripped out and it’s gone; I don’t know how to explain it, but it just plain sucks.

I think that if other people can continue then so can we.  I know that people try to help with words, but honestly it really doesn’t help.  Sometimes just a look and a hug is enough.  I lost my grandmother in 1988 who was a second mom to me and a friend.  It was very painful for me and a rough year but we got through.  I still think of her from time to time but I continued my life.  I lost my dad in 1998 and that was very hard on the family. We knew he was dying and we prepared as best we could but it still was quite difficult.  We still miss him a lot.  I know he’s with my boy.

But losing Brent has been devastating.  I can honestly say I know we will never be the same. Losing a child is honestly the most horrible thing I’ve ever been through and wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.  But here I am with my family struggling along.  The best I can describe is that I’m like a zombie or robot that continues walking, working eating but in a daze, not all of me is here.  I honestly don’t know where I am, meaning it’s as if a part of me is gone, gone with Brent or maybe it’s a numbness that I feel that maybe it’s biological response to such pain that the numbness is there as a protection. I honestly don’t have an answer.  I know that I’ve learned to live by the day or should I say the now.  I don’t think too much in tomorrow, because as I’ve learned the hard way, it’s better to live in the moment than to worry about tomorrow, because I have no way of knowing what tomorrow will bring.

One of the many things that helped me is to have contact with the men and women of COLD STEELE, Brent’s unit that he served with in Afghanistan.  They even made a private group page on Facebook in honor of Brent for them only and invited Jessica and I in their group.  Many of them came to Brent’s service and I knew his death had affected them a lot.  Remember that in the military they do have a brotherhood, and even stronger when they are at war together.  They have a very special bond that none of us can get in between.

Shortly after Brent’s service I received a beautiful letter from one of the men Brent served with, that I’d like to share with you.  He gave me permission to put in.

“Mrs. Ortega,

   I am terribly sorry for the passing of your son and a GREAT soldier. I will speak candidly and without restraint, but your son once saved my fucking life from mortar fire. I remember it brilliantly. Him and I were both scared as shit, but he was naturally a more level headed soldier than I and pulled me away from the incoming mortar fire and thus saved my life because it struck right before us…ALMOST. From then on out he never even expected so much as a word about it. We had an unspoken bond afterwards and from then on if he needed or wanted a thing from me I would do my best to help him with it and him I. Unfortunately, after I came home, I succumbed harshly to the temptations of civilian live, specifically alcohol, and I got into more than my share of trouble. I really am having a God honest hard time dealing with the whole thing. It has been particularly hard for me, not being able to attend the man’s funeral that saved my life because I got a DUI. To me it is so sincerely heartbreaking, I am very heart broken about it. Your words have truly touched me…and I write this with tears in my eyes and I TRULY mean this, but your son saved my life and I wish the world that I could finally hang out with your son as a civilian. I do not intend to make light of your son’s death at all but he would be “one of the cool guys to hang out with,” and we even had plans for it. But it never happened. Your son truly is a hero to me. 

I love Brent,

Carbonelli, Matthew”

I think this letter pretty much explains and supports what I’ve said about the brotherhood between the men and women in the military, what they go through both there and here when returning home and finally about Brent being a strong and brave person.  So many of our soldiers, like Brent are strong and brave, but for some reason the PTSD kicks their ass and I truly believe that it can be resolved and that they can be made to feel better instead of like weaklings if they admit to it.

 

pt 4-3

The End is Here

You are a creature of light,

From light have you come,

To light shall you go,

And surrounding you through every step

Is the light of your infinite being.

Messiah’s Handbook by Richard Bach

 

I can’t begin to tell you what we felt and what we were about to go through.  I had to call the coroner’s office, because they hadn’t called me.  I called and said who I was and had to leave a message.  You can’t imagine what this was like.  I was calling a coroner’s office for my son.  We sat there in shock first I think.  My brother wanted to call my mom because they were all in Florida.  I told him to wait because I knew that they were having their dinner at that time and didn’t want to ruin it.  Finally, the coroner called and the first thing I said was where are you located so that I could go there.  They informed me that it wasn’t necessary and that they couldn’t allow me to come see him.  They said that weren’t equipped for that and only did that when they couldn’t identify someone, but they had a positive identification.  They had questions for me because they were doing an autopsy and would I be okay with answering some questions.  I said yes.  They asked me about his health.  I told him that he had been having stomach issues but that it wasn’t known yet the cause.  I had asked what happened and he said he believed that Brent had died from an overdose.  That the way they had found him was consistent with that but they would know more after an autopsy and blood work.   He went over some questions I answered and asked again if I could come.  I couldn’t.

The rest of the evening was like an out of body experience.  I can tell you what went on but it’s as if I’m telling you about a movie.  I told Bobby to call Mexico and tell his family. I called Jessica, but Brandon had already called her.  I could barely understand her, she was in hysterics, after all, not only did Brent break her heart, now that’s how it was left, no chance to make up.

I decided to text my sisters and told them to call me on a 3 way conversation.  I couldn’t bring myself to tell my mom.  They finally called and I proceeded to tell them that Brent was with our dad.  My sister Angela lost it and my sister Tina was calm like she always is.  She’s able to control or hide her emotions, I’m not sure which.  I told what little I knew.  Now they had the task of telling the rest of the family.  A while later, my mom called Anthony and as predicted she was pissed that’s how my mom gets when she’s hurt, she gets pissed.  She didn’t call me because I believe she was pissed that I hadn’t called her.

We all just continued sitting there except for Tico and Brandon.  Tico went to his girlfriend’s house and Brandon, well we weren’t quite sure because he wouldn’t answer his phone and he had broken up with his girl a month or two before.   Much later that night, Brandon text to tell me where he was; he went back to the girl that he had broken up with, and that he would answer my texts from then on.  I kept texting him because I was already a wreck because Brent hadn’t responded to the earlier text when I had text all 3 of my sons to see if they were on their way and then to find out why Brent didn’t respond.  This made it more difficult that day and for the future when my sons didn’t respond to any calls or texts.

I had stepped outside to have a cigarette at one point and one of our regulars, Matt, who I’m close with him and his family, was out here having a cigarette too, but had no idea what was going on yet.  I don’t remember exactly what he had said about Thanksgiving but I then blurted out, thinking that I was mumbling  something like “Oh yeah, it’s a great Thanksgiving, my son Brent is at the morgue and I can’t bleeping see him”.  Poor Matt turned and looked at me and asked, “What did you say?”  I said again what I said, he was shocked.  I honestly didn’t mean to say it like that, but I really wasn’t in a very good frame of mind. We were all in a state of shock and not necessarily thinking right.

We finally all left the restaurant and went home.  I did call the coroner one more time and begged if I could come but he said that they couldn’t.  Bobby and I returned home and got a phone call from his friend’s in Mexico, they told us that their son, Antonio  and daughter-in-law, Maribel were on their way over; they too were friends of ours.  They came and a while later my good friend Edith and her husband Kenny came over too.  They stayed with us until about 2:00 a.m.

Bobby stayed in bed pretty much the next 3 days.  I on the other hand couldn’t sit still.  I had to wait for the coroner and also had to get a funeral home because that’s the only way they would release Brent’s body so I could see my son.  As morbid as this may sound too many of you, I had to see my boy.  I went to the funeral home in the town of our business that I knew of.  I just walked in, no phone call, just walked in and asked to make an arrangement to see my son.  This was the first step.  I went alone,  I don’t know why, I guess my husband just couldn’t handle it. We sat, Joe the funeral director and I to figure out a few things, mainly, getting my son there.  He called the coroner; obviously they knew each other because they were on a first name basis.  The coroner would call them when they were done with the autopsy.  This was Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, Black Friday.  It was definitely A BLACK FRIDAY for me.

Now we had to discuss some minor details that were necessary for him to know.  Once he would get Brent’s body what would he do.  I knew that I had to see him, but I also knew that I would have him cremated.  The problem was that my family was in Florida.  They had offered to come home early but I told them there was nothing they could do. I told them to let the kids finish their trip.  Now what Joe needed to know was whether or not he needed to embalm him so that my family could see him if they chose to.  So I called my family and asked them to discuss among themselves if they wanted to see him and to get back with me as soon as they could.  I called Bobby, Brandon, Tico and Jessica to find out if they wanted to see him when he got to the funeral home.  Bobby and Tico said no.  Brandon and Jessica said yes.  My family called me a little later and said no.  They had told me that they wanted to remember him as he was.  I on the other hand knew I could remember him as he was because I had almost 22 years with him.

After leaving there I think I went to the restaurant to do some paperwork.  I honestly can’t remember. After leaving the restaurant I had called Edith and asked if I could stop over, so I went there.  I sat with Edith and Kenny for a while when my phone rang; it was Joe from the funeral home.  He had Brent and Brent was ready for us to see.  I called Brandon and Jessica and I even called Bobby and Tico to ask them one more time if they had wanted to see Brent.  They still said no.  So I told Jess and Brandon to be there around 5.  I was leaving Edith’s house when Kenny told me he would drive me.  I told him I’d be fine.  Thank God he knew better.  He drove me.

I’ll never forget that in the back of my mind I kept hoping it wasn’t him.  That somehow the coroner made a mistake.  It’s not that I was wishing anything bad on someone else; there was just that hope.  I entered and Joe came out.  He told me how he fixed Brent up.  He said that he would show me how I could touch him because of the autopsy I would have to be careful.  I’m probably not saying things as delicately as Joe did to me because he was awesome, but just describing the best way I can, considering that I’m still telling you this as if I’m still out of my body.  His last question to me was if I was a person that passed out easily.  He needed to know if he had to stay with me or not.  I said I’d be fine.

As I’m writing this the tears are coming, even though I’m having a good week right now this is getting to me.  I walked in the room, by myself.  Kenny had stayed in the lobby.  There he was, my Brenty.  Lifeless, yet it was his body.  I just stood there talking to him, crying and touching him carefully.  There was my beautiful boy, of course HE wasn’t there, but it was him.  I stayed a few minutes and then Jess came with her mom.  Poor Jess, she had just had her heartbroken by my son less than a month before, when he had been pushing us all away and now this; both of them too young for this experience.  She is a strong woman.   We somehow find a way to continue, not necessarily knowing how we’re doing it, but doing it.  Brandon came then and he was in horrible shape.  I remember how pissed he got at me just for touching him.  He went in and then came out a moment later.  He left and really didn’t say too much to me.

My family came home Sunday night from Florida, and I believe my mom, Angela and Tina came over for a while and we discussed what pictures to bring on Monday when we were meeting to plan the service.  I knew I needed them there with me and Jessica.   I knew my boys weren’t going to do this and Bobby definitely wasn’t going to plan his son’s service.  There was no way I could do this alone, plan my son’s service?  Do we as parents ever think about this?  No, we don’t.

We all met in the morning at the funeral home to attempt to plan a service for my 21 year old boy.  It’s ridiculous.   This isn’t happening.   This isn’t normal.  I am not supposed to be planning a service for my son; he supposed to be planning mine.  Can you see how absolutely insane this is?   Joe the funeral director was an absolute saint.  He had to deal with 5 women, who honestly I believe, no, I know we weren’t there mentally.  We were in such a state of shock; again I think it’s the body’s way so that a person can cope.  We managed to get through this step.  Then that night Jess came over and we started putting all the pictures together.  It was great looking at all the pictures and smiling about them.  It wasn’t real yet.

The service was planned for Wednesday, almost a week after Brent had passed.  I believe we were all numb that day, definitely out of body; it’s still how I remember that day.  The room packed with people, my family everywhere; I realized months later of course that I never stood where I was supposed to.  There were so many people and yet I can hardly remember who was there.  I tell you these things so you are aware of the state of mind that people are in.  The priest spoke, which because of the bad shape we were all in on Monday while preparing the service we had a priest chosen that we didn’t know nor did he know us.  Next, I got up to speak, but it wasn’t me or my words, they were Brent’s words and it was him holding me up and doing this for him, without shedding a tear.

 

We are here today to celebrate the life of our special soul Brent.  Brent was an advanced soul that came to touch our lives for a brief time for whatever the reason may be, a debt he owed from another life or to simply guide and teach us.   I feel honored that I was chosen to be his mother.  He could make me laugh and cry like no other.

Through the years we became closer and closer.  He told me things that most children would not tell their mother

His intelligence was beyond any one of us here in this room. He had life figured out a long time ago, which is what made it so difficult sometimes for him.  He was one of the strongest people I knew, both physically and mentally.

To his father, brothers, aunts and uncles, grandmother, Soul mate Jess and myself please know that you should have no feelings of guilt or regret.  We were all there for him and he knew that we loved him as he loved us too.

To his cousins even though he didn’t show up lately at your birthday parties, please know that he loved you too.

To his friends you have things too, to learn from Brent, each of us is a gift to each other, his lesson is right in front of your face, so if you are truly his friends then I ask you to please honor him and learn the lesson.!!

My Brenty was a kind soul that would help his family and friends.  He had many friends and acquaintances here and made some good friends when he joined the army national guard.

I am proud of his service to the military. I remember when Bobby and I had to sign the paper work, because he was only 17 when he made his decision.  He had skipped 8th grade and graduated high school early.

At the age of 18 he was in Afghanistan I can’t begin to tell the relief we all had when he came back…  I know that he had some difficult times to deal with as so many of our military do.

He finished what he set out to do as he did so many times in his life.

Brent was one to start something new, learn it, know it and then say okay been there done that now what do I do.

We will miss your sense of humor and the way you always kept us on our toes.  There was no bologna when it came to Brent.  He wouldn’t hesitate to point out if you were talking like an idiot or talking like a hypocrite.  He’d question your answers and make sure you understood why you’re thinking was flawed.

Brenty, I will miss you more than you could ever imagine, but I know that it was your time.  I love you so much but know you had to go on to continue your journey.  I know that we will be with each other again because we had such a great time here!!!

 

This poem that a friend sent to me expresses exactly how I have always felt about my boys:

I’ll lend you for a little time.

A child of mine, he said.

For you to love the while he lives and mourn for him when he is dead.

I’ve looked the wide world over in my search for the teachers true,

but from the throngs that crowded lifes ways,

I have selected you.

Now will you give him all your love, nor think the labor vain?

Nor hate me when I come to call to take him back again?

We’ll shelter him… with tenderness.

We’ll love him while we may.

And for the happiness we’ve known, forever grateful stay.

But should the angels call for him much sooner than we planned,

We’ll brave the bitter grief that comes and try to understand.

*The Army National Guard next did taps and gave me the flag.  That was it, everyone did the traditional walk past.  We then invited everyone to our place of business which had been closed early to accommodate the people.  I spoke with Joe before I left to go to the restaurant and we had agreed I’d come by late morning the next day and pick up the flowers and to pick up my son.

Brent was cremated and I was bringing him home.  He had to be home, it’s where he belonged, with his family.  His remains are still here.   I have a shrine above the fire place, he also still has his bedroom, Bobby’s office has numerous pictures, his flag, etc… and now I have something in the yard that I’m creating from a project that we were working from my last summer with him.  I tell you this so you understand what many of us do in order to deal with our pain.  Yes we do know the person has passed, but it doesn’t mean that they’re gone from our hearts and you best be careful with what you say to us; by the way the worst comment you can make to someone who has lost someone is to say for them to “get over it”.   Sorry people, we don’t get over it, we deal with it every day,   and it takes us all different amount of time to deal with the death.  Although there are so called stages of grieving, each person is different.  There is no order or definite way that we grieve, but we GRIEVE!!   There is no right or wrong way to feel, so please THINK, before you open your mouth.  Thank you.

 

pt 4-4

I’d like to say that this was the end of the story, but it’s not.  As stated before Brent was hanging with this girl who was an addict and a former girlfriend of one of his former friends.  They weren’t really friends anymore and Brent never wanted him in the house unless he was there because he said he was stealing for drugs, that the friend had been stealing from his mom, too.   Well, what I haven’t said yet was that towards the end meaning the last couple of months Brent wasn’t earning money the right way.  His friend knew this.  Brent as I said before always was responsible and paid his bills.  Well now he seemed to have quite a bit of cash.

Brandon informed me that Brent had a large sum of money and that it should be at the place he had just moved into.  He also told me that he thought this girl was behind his death and his friend, too.  I called the sheriff’s department and told them of the information.  After numerous calls and back and forth and waiting for his blood work, they informed me there was nothing to investigate even though thousands of dollars were gone.  The girl and the friend both took off to Florida.  The person they rented from told one story to the police and a completely different story to me.

I knew the girl that Brent was hanging with was no good, or to rephrase, a lost soul.  I had it out with her days before the service because she took some of his things.  She told me she’d bring them over.  She didn’t show up.  Then she said she’d let Brandon pick up his stuff, she wasn’t there.  I found out she was at the friend’s house so I went over there, she had his dog tags, wallet and cell phone.  It was weeks before I got his stuff which she claimed she didn’t have.  The girl’s mother sent it to me.  Jess; too felt that this girl was behind his death.  I was also getting suspicious of the girl he rented from because she would never answer her phone when I called.  I kept trying to go to get his stuff.  She finally called Jess one day to get his stuff.  I also got a phone call from this girl’s mother accusing me of giving her daughter a hard time and that people were following her and why did it take me so long to pick up Brent’s things.  And then there’s the money, the police said there wasn’t any.  The girl he rented from said there was some and she saw some with the things the police took.  What really happened in that apartment?  I’ll never know.

The whole thing is confusing, but one thing for sure and that is there was a large sum of money that has disappeared.  I personally don’t want it but am upset that the police wouldn’t investigate it after all the info I gave them.  I even had the names of the people that gave him the oxycodone. Brent always had money on him.  The former friend’s father had gone with his son to pick up the girl from where Brent had passed.  He claimed the girl took nothing and he was there when the police were there.  Yet the girl’s mother sent me a big box with clothes, jewelry, shoes and his army boots.  But yet he claims she took nothing.  The mother of his friend tells me there was no money and that Brent’s lock boxes were busted and left in California.  I just find it interesting that they knew these things.  Brent’s brothers always knew more.   And where was money?

I can’t begin to tell you what we went through.  We were in a daze and overwhelmed.  We were all off a week from work.  The employees managed to take care of the business and my brother-in-law flew in from Mexico to take care of the business too.  Bobby and Tico returned to work and I the following week.  It was horrible.  Every time I went in, I could see him.  He worked with me at night.  It was finally in I believe March that I told my husband that I couldn’t do it anymore.  I was already burned out and with this I was just beyond anything.  So I would only work Sundays and that’s how it remained.

As time went on I began to piece things together and realized how the PTSD and his physical pain did this to him. So I began to get all his medical records from the 2 hospitals and the VA hospital and looked them over.  I had my sister Angela look them over, too.  We discovered some interesting things.  First, my sister who is a P.A. questioned as to not once did any of them ask to get a stool sample, knowing that he had served in Afghanistan to check for parasites.  This is especially weird I think for the VA because they had all his records.  My sister even went to a medical site online and that was the first thing that popped up and she found someone with similar problem and that’s what it was, a parasite.  Second, again pointing at the VA, they had his records and yet the doctor is asking me if he was depressed, and when he became agitated with her they were going to get security instead of getting him something for his anxiety.  These are the people who take care of our veterans.  3rd, I remember thinking to myself that day in the VA hospital, how would the Korean vets would’ve responded to a Korean doctor at the time or a Vietnam vet getting a Vietnamese doctor at that time and here my son was fine until he got the resident physician which she was a middle eastern.  I’m not saying that I’m prejudice; I’m just saying that he was fine until he had to deal with her. A red flag should have gone up.  They had his records which showed him diagnosed with PTSD.

I know that the PTSD kicked in the end of summer, beginning fall.  Following that the pain returned in his stomach.  It’s interesting to also see that even though there is a discrepancy as to when he was honorably discharged, all this happened shortly after his discharge.  You see Brent loved being in the Army and I think that when he was given a choice which really wasn’t a choice, it also made him lose his passion.  He lost the one thing that truly motivated him.  The choice given to him after he got a “dirty drop” was: Go to rehab and you can never be a medic again or an honorable discharge.  This was no choice to Brent.  I don’t think that’s a choice to anyone; either way it meant to lose the only thing he wanted for his future.

Another thing that I came to realize was that I didn’t know that PTSD can kick in early after coming from being deployed or it can come months and even years later.  What I don’t understand is why the Army/Military hasn’t really done anything to help these men and woman.  There is a huge rise in PTSD and TBI, Traumatic Brain Injury.  The VA put out a report in March of 2012 saying (PUT REPORT IN) after a 10 year study on Iraq and Afghanistan Vets, 20 per cent of the vets diagnosed with PTSD and have been given the prescription for pain killers such as oxycodone, end up dying of an overdose.

Now in 2013 the rates of suicides keep rising, more in the army than any other branch.  They say there are more suicides than casualties. (Get report)

I actually started looking up PTSD online, but first looked up the term Shell shock which is what it used to be called.  I was amazed as to how long this has been going on.  Yet the Military still doesn’t do anything about it.  I mean anyone can have PTSD from a traumatic event in their life and there is help for them to deal with it, why can’t the military enforce the men to get help, without penalty or being given a bad rap for it.   I don’t mean they have to go to the VA to get it, but something needs to be done.  As of this writing another report has come out that the rate of suicides has jumped, the Army having the most.  Another red flag!!

We all need to realize that there are a huge number of men and women who have served or are serving due to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.  These are our sons, daughters, wives husbands, moms and dads.  PTSD can be dealt with however  they’re sending them home technically wounded without having help set up for them.  I’ll give you an example of what I mean about how crazy this system is.  Brent was Army National Guard.  He came home from Afghanistan and was off for 3 months before returning to his one weekend a month.  So they just basically drop off someone that’s been at war and put them with civilian life without maybe making them meet once a week and talk amongst themselves, so that maybe they can help each other adjust.

It’s not like this is the first time we’ve been in a war.  I also realize that the military has come a long way, with special thanks to our previous vets.  There has got to be a solution, and ignorance is no longer an option.  Our boys are dying and not only from mortar attacks; they’re dying from something that can be helped.   Something has to give and the military can’t hide anymore or push this under the rug.

I was and still am proud of my son and what he did for our country.  I also, know that men have a tendency to not put importance on things and that’s why we need to find a way to help them get help.  Even amongst them the attitude is to be tough.  This doesn’t mean that the person is weak.  If someone has diabetes, does that mean they’re weak?  My son and all the other soldiers like him are no less a hero than the ones who died while at war.  The only difference is that the war killed them here in a different way.

Recently I went to a TAPS (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors) grief seminar.  It was not only emotional being with others in my same pain, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, wives, fiancés, girlfriends, sons daughters, friends.  Yes these are all the people affected by one death.  I was stunned by the fact that half the people there lost their loved one due to suicide.  More proof to the numbers they’re giving out.

You can’t imagine what it’s like to sit in this room filled of everyone in such pain.  Yes, for those of you who have the attitude that well they were in the military, they know it’s the chance they will take. You’re right, but it doesn’t take away the pain.  It also doesn’t excuse that there’s a large amount of deaths that don’t have to take place.  They can be prevented.

THE NOW

Don’t be dismayed at good-byes, a farewell is necessary before you can meet again, and meeting again, after moments or lifetimes, is certain for those who are friends.

Messiah’s Handbook by Richard Bach

 

How do I explain my son’s death?  I’m sure you will all have your own insights, opinions, etc…  I have mine and there are more than one.

I’ll never know if he was “helped” to overdose because of the money he had on him and the county sheriff’s office felt that there was no reason to investigate even though I gave them plenty of information that would definitely cause suspicion.

He definitely was suffering from PTSD and also some type of pancreas problem which was never resolved.   There is no denial of this and it really showed up before he died.  Unfortunately, the VA hospital was useless in helping him.  The Army I feel turned their back on him because of the PTSD.  He had been working out so much trying to get physically prepared for Special Forces.  He wanted it.  He had finally found something that kept his interest and also gave him the discipline that he wanted and he felt that he needed.  He even wanted to deploy again to Afghanistan.  Unfortunately, with PTSD on his record, he soon learned that he wasn’t going anywhere.  The very place that teaches you to be a soldier and who will expose you to war doesn’t prepare you for what can happen in war and it does nothing to maybe help prevent the problem nor does it try to help in the recovery of war. His dream and what made him happy was stripped away from him.  I don’t blame the individuals that made the decisions for him personally, but I do blame who makes the rules.  I truly believe he’d be here today if this wouldn’t have happened.  I also realize that he has to take some blame in some of the decisions he had made prior to being honorably discharged.  However the Army lost a valuable soldier, but that’s nothing to them.  Decisions are made sometimes without realizing how not only it affects a person but it also affects the lives of the people around them.  The military needs to take responsibility for their actions, too.  I also question the abdominal issues.  Our soldiers have to take numerous inoculations when going overseas.  What are the side effects?

He was so special and so intelligent.  It was as if he’d been here so many times before and was just here for one last time to maybe pay off a debt from a previous life. There’s no doubt in my mind that he was an advanced soul.

I remember reading the book ILLUSIONS by Richard Bach.  It has always been one of my favorites.  I had given it to Brent to read when he was in AIT.  Later I sent him the MESSIAH’S HANDBOOK by Richard Bach, which is a part of the book ILLUSIONS.   Brent also bought into the philosophy of this book as I did.  I remember finding one of the sayings written in his handwriting in his wallet after he passed.

If you practice being fictional for a while,

You will understand that fictional characters

Are sometimes more real than people with bodies

And heartbeats.

 

I also believe as my husband does, that Brent was here for a mission.  He taught us many things; things that we are all still learning.  I feel him more now than I ever did before since his passing.  Its 19 months now.  Brent always wanted me to be happy, not to blame myself for things he had done in the past or things maybe his brothers had done or even his father.  As I think of him, I think of how lucky I was to have him. Don’t get me wrong and think that I’m turning him into a saint, I’m not.  It’s just that when we have a chance to look back on things we can see their gifts, their lessons.  I miss my son more than anyone can even imagine.  His death has taken such a toll on all of us.

 

We are still all learning his lessons and trying to get back to a new normal whatever normal is. Life will never be the same for any of us because we were fortunate enough to have our lives touched by an angel.  I thank you, my beautiful son; for all that you have given us.  Please continue watching over us all and especially our men and women who serve, they need you most of all.

Christmas 2010, the last one with Brent.

Christmas 2010, the last one with Brent.

 

Finale

With every choice you risk the life you would have had; with every decision, you lose it.

  Messiah’s Handbook by Richard Bach

It was March of 1989.  Decision made, I got on the plane with ……

 

 

 

 

PTSD INFO

Veterans and PTSD

Veterans statistics: PTSD, Depression, TBI, Suicide.

The following veterans statistics are from a major study done by the RAND Corporation (full pdf of study), a study by the Congressional Research Service, the Veterans Administration, and the US Surgeon General.

PTSD statistics are a moving target that is fuzzy: do you look only at PTSD diagnosed within one year of return from battle? Do you only count PTSD that limits a soldier’s ability to go back into battle or remain employed, but that may have destroyed a marriage or wrecked a family? Do you look at the PTSD statistics for PTSD that comes up at any time in a person’s life: it is possible to have undiagnosed PTSD for 30 years and not realize it–possibly never or until you find a way to get better and then you realize there is another way to live. When you count the PTSD statistic of “what percentage of a population gets PTSD,” is your overall starting group combat veterans, veterans who served in the target country, or all military personnel for the duration of a war?

And veterans PTSD statistics get revised over time. The findings from the NVVR Study (National Vietnam Veterans’ Readjustment Study) commissioned by the government in the 1980s initially found that for “Vietnam theater veterans” 15% of men had PTSD at the time of the study and 30% of men had PTSD at some point in their life. But a 2003 re-analysis found that “contrary to the initial analysis of the NVVRS data, a large majority of Vietnam Veterans struggled with chronic PTSD symptoms, with four out of five reporting recent symptoms when interviewed 20-25 years after Vietnam.” (see also NVVR review)

There is a similar problem with suicide statistics. The DoD and their researchers tend to lose track of military personnel once they retire, and not all suicides will be counted as a military suicide (plus, is a person who drinks themselves to death committing suicide?). A recent study found U.S. veteran suicide rates to be be as high as 5,000 a year. See suicide statistics (bottom of page).

Summary of Veterans Statistics for PTSD, TBI, Depression and Suicide.

  • there are over 2.3 million American veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars (compared to 2.6 million Vietnam veterans who fought in Vietnam; there are 8.2 million “Vietnam Era Veterans” (personnel who served anywhere during any time of the Vietnam War)
  • at least 20% of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have PTSD and/or Depression. (Military counselors I have interviewed state that, in their opinion, the percentage of veterans with PTSD is much higher; the number climbs higher when combined with TBI.) Other accepted studies have found a PTSD prevalence of 14%; see a complete review of PTSD prevalence studies, which quotes studies with findings ranging from 4 -17% of Iraq War veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder)
  • 50% of those with PTSD do not seek treatment
  • out of the half that seek treatment, only half of them get “minimally adequate” treatment (RAND study)
  • 19% of veterans may have traumatic brain injury (TBI)
  • Over 260,000 veterans from OIF and OEF so far have been diagnosed with TBI. Traumatic brain injury is much more common in the general population than previously thought: according to the CDC, over 1,700,000 Americans have a traumatic brain injury each year; in Canada 20% of teens had TBI resulting in hospital admission or that involved over 5 minutes of unconsciousness (VA surgeon reporting in BBC News)
  • 7% of veterans have both post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury
  • rates of post-traumatic stress are greater for these wars than prior conflicts
  • in times of peace, in any given year, about 4% (actually 3.6%) of the general population have PTSD (caused by natural disasters, car accidents, abuse, etc.)
  • recent statistical studies show that rates of veteran suicide are much higher than previously thought (see suicide prevention page).
  • PTSD distribution between services for OND, OIF, and OEF: Army 67% of cases, Air Force 9%, Navy 11%, and Marines 13%. (Congressional Research Service, Sept. 2010)
  • recent sample of 600 veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan found: 14% post-traumatic stress disorder; 39% alcohol abuse; 3% drug abuse. Major depression also a problem. “Mental and Physical Health Status and Alcohol and Drug Use Following Return From Deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan.” Susan V. Eisen, PhD
  • Oddly, statistics for veteran tobacco use are never reported alongside PTSD statistics, even though increases in rates of smoking are strongly correlated with the stress of deployment and combat, and smoking statistics show that tobacco use is tremendously damaging and costly for soldiers.
  • More active duty personnel die by own hand than combat in 2012 (New York Times)

Other veterans PTSD statistics references and sources:

Contact us to learn more All content copyright (c) 2012-2013 by Veterans and PTSD. All rights reserved.

http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/RS22452.pdf

 

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