This case of the week comes from our Sarasota, FL office.
It was probably in February or March, I received a phone call from a guy ranting and raving that no one cares about Veterans and no one will help me and I am just going to take my life. I tried to give him the phone number for the VA Suicide Hotline and he ranted that no one would help him there. I did tell him that I would listen to him and would try to help. He proceeded to tell me that I didn’t care either and before I could say “I did care he hung up on me”. I had his phone number and called him back. It went to voicemail so I gave him my name and phone number at Veterans’ Outreach and told him to call me before he took his life. I was so upset for the rest of the day. I even tried to call him that evening on my cell phone and told him I would really like to talk to him.
The next day, Ted called not ranting anymore. The first thing I told him I was so glad that he called me back and that I cared about him. He apologized for the ranting but he was still considering taking his life. I asked Ted why do you want to take your life, what is so bad that you don’t want to continue to live. I again told him that I cared and I had all day to listen to him that my work would wait.
Ted went on to say that he needed help with a rent application of $50.00. I told him we could probably help him with that. (In which, we didn’t end up helping him as he received the money from someone else).
I said, “Not having money to pay your rent is why you’re going to take your life?”
He started to choke up and said No, you don’t understand. I said “Tell me what’s going on and I will try to help or find help for you” He proceeded to tell me that he was in the Marines and getting ready to go to Germany and they would be going between Germany and Kabul for maneuvers. He was in a motorcycle accident here in the states 2 weeks before he was to leave for Germany. He didn’t get hurt other than some scrapes and bruises, but the Marines thought he had might have a concussion and decided he couldn’t go to Germany and sent his friend instead. His friend was married and had 2 young children. His other friend Matt was going as well. On one of the maneuvers, they did to Kabul his friend with the 2 children was killed and Matt lost his arm during the attack. I then asked him if he had contacted Matt since he was hurt and was sent back to the states? He said “No I feel so guilty, I can’t talk to him”
I proceeded to tell him about my brother-in-law being killed in Vietnam and how hard it was for us as it was as though we never had any closure. I told him one day I was on the Vietnam Wall web page and I saw someone had commented that he was with Tom the day he was killed in Vietnam. This was 40 years later. He left his name and what town he was from. I immediately googled him and found his name along with a phone number. That night my husband called the phone number and told him that he was Tom’s brother and would he talk to him? They ended up talking for quite a while. Over a couple of months, they made arrangements for Carl to come to Indiana and meet Tom’s family. What a blessed day to hear the stories that he told about Tom while he was in Vietnam. I then asked Ted again why don’t you try to find Matt and maybe get some closure for yourself. In the meantime, he gave me Matt’s name and some info about him. A few hours later Ted, called me back. Thanking me over and over how, I had saved his life, by taking the time to listen and talk to him and encouraging him to find Matt. He had found Matt and they had talked for over an hour about everything. Since then I have stayed in touch with Ted. He did call earlier this month and wish me a “Merry Christmas and told me he wouldn’t be celebrating Christmas if I had didn’t take the time to talk to him”. It was all I could do not to cry.
We did help Ted with his electric bill this month. He felt bad for asking, but his rent amount he pays the Veterans housing had been incorrect and they took out extra money. He is now working full time at Aldi’s grocery store and hoping to move to the Sarasota area as his younger daughter lives here. I am going to try and see if I can make arrangements to meet him after the New Year.