I found out on Saturday that one of the Marines I knew in Japan killed himself. He was walking down the stairs during an argument with his wife and blew his brains out all over the stairwell. He had been going through some things in the Marine Corps; had gotten in trouble and been demoted. The police suspected his wife until they discovered a suicide note at work. So this tall, goofy, adventurous, and loved Marine had thought about killing himself so often that he had actually written a note while at work, went home, and got into an argument with his wife with suicide already as an escape route. It wasn’t a spur of the moment decision. He had been suffering inside of his own head for so long that he had a plan and the means.
Specific to the Marine Corps, multiple people get angry when their buddies kill themselves. “Why did he kill himself just because he got in trouble? Marines have gotten in trouble since the beginning of time; we were born in a bar and we kill people for a living, for crissakes!” Well, yeah, maybe. “He is just being a weak pussy; we would never have allowed hard times in the Corps to cause us to kill ourselves. Fucking pussies.” But decades ago, getting in trouble didn’t end your career like it does now. One slip up and you lose everything you’ve worked on for years, including education benefits, the ability to re-enlist, the respect of your peers, etc. There is no more “taking them to the tree line” and beating the shit out of a Marine to teach them a lesson before cracking open a beer and settling the issue. Marine discipline is conducted through paperwork, and paperwork has more lasting effects than a good beating in the woods.
To be faced with the utter destruction of your career and loss of respect after years of sacrifice is heart-wrenching for some Marines when all they wanted was to drink a beer after seeing their buddies blown apart in Iraq and Afghanistan and they were caught drinking underage, or perhaps they snuck a girl into the barracks to have some much needed sex and got caught and punished. “There is life outside of the Marine Corps.” Well, yeah, of course. But young Marines don’t seem to see life outside of the Marine Corps because that is all they know as an adult.
I’m angry about this Marine killing himself, but I am also not surprised. I am not surprised because at least once a month, someone I know kills themselves. Sometimes they are faces that I’ve seen and served with but don’t remember vividly. Other times, they are really close to me and I try so hard and yet not hard enough to keep them alive. The numbers are increasing and not just with combat veterans.
I think the main reason I’m so angry and bothered by his death is that I know what he was experiencing and yet I haven’t given in. I’m angry that I am continuing to suffer and he isn’t suffering anymore. I’m angry that when I get suicidal, it is like my brain is on fire, white hot with excruciating anger and disappointment and pain. I feel trapped in my own brain, smashing against the walls, screaming, and the only thing that calms me down is the thought of killing myself to end it. I’m angry because he gave in, while I just dance around it in my head. I am angry, and I am sad.
‘Till Valhalla, Marine.