A week ago I got the call you never want to receive. Every death is difficult, but suicides carry with them a singular pain that forever transforms you. Captain Jason Back was the type of guy who immediately put a smile on your face. His cheerful, energetic personality made him a beacon of light in a place where the general demeanor was quite gloomy. I know that the world can get busy.We let the little things overwhelm our minds and our hearts, but never underestimate the power of meaningful conversations with the people that we love. Take time to listen–truly listen–to the things that people are saying to you. And pay attention to the things they aren’t saying. Not every smile means that all is well. It’s hard to imagine that someone who seemed so happy on the outside could be hurting so much, but that is one of the most fascinating things about people. We all wear our masks well. It’s not easy to break through, but I think it’s always worth it when we are able.
On average, 22 veterans a day commit suicide. The war is never truly over for them. It lives always just beyond their eyes, and that is a pain I will never truly understand. They fight so valiantly, but that fight is not always won. The decision to end the fight could happen at any moment. And for those of us left behind there will always be a million questions. We will constantly wonder what more we could have done. Those are answers we will never have, but we can continue to live on with their memories and to honor them with our kindness to everyone we meet. We are all fighting our own battles, and we can often feel as though we are alone in the world. You are not. I promise you that you are not alone. Seek help when you are hurting?
A year ago I took this picture of Jason and Aaron at the Marine Corps Birthday Ball. It reminds me of his fun-loving personality and that wonderful smile of his that could light up an entire room.
I raise my cup to you, dear friend. You truly lived a life worthy of commendation. Few of us will leave this world having left such an indelible mark of kindness. I am so thankful to have known you and to have called you my friend. You are greatly missed and greatly loved.