Last year I wrote about feeling like a zombie because I was living the life of a three Blue Star mother with my baby deployed. Today I write to you as a mother who has had one of those Blue Stars replaced with Gold. The piece of my heart that was deployed survived that tour and committed suicide at his home in Colorado Springs, CO, August 28, 2015. Sergeant First Class Tyler Milam Westbrook, 31, was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne), Fort Carson, Colorado.
There is nothing that prepares a parent for that call in the middle of the night. My worst nightmare has become my reality. I knew he was very troubled — how could I not know??? I am his mother, he was part of me. Recognizing his struggle and not being able to do something was like watching a train wreck in slow motion. The intellectual me truly believes I was powerless over the path he chose. The mother in me wanted to intervene to protect my child.
Having the greatest support group in the world and my antidepressant dose tripled is what keeps me going. My time as an anti-war activist has put me in contact with wonderful people on several continents and all the time zones here back me with calls, messages and the invite to call them at any time day or night if I need to talk. My life-long friends and home town of Williamstown,WV along with many from the Mid-Ohio Valley have been the anchor/the rock/the strength that has helped my family start putting the pieces of our shattered lives back together. For this outpouring of love and support I am humbled and forever grateful.
The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month 1918 was the end to the fighting between the Allied Nations and Germany in World War I, “the war to end all wars”. It was known as Armistice Day and was to be commemorated with thanksgiving, prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace. Nearly 100 years later our country is involved in wars/conflicts/military actions that result in 22 Veterans a day committing suicide.
This Veterans Day, I will represent Military Families Speak Out at a memorial in Parkersburg,WV. Friends will stand with me as we try and generate participation in a group that truly supports the troops. At noon I’ll see my counselor and work on preserving what is left of my sanity. After that, I’ll be at the Williamstown American Legion to help serve potato soup and ham sandwiches to all the Vets that visit. During, before or after these events I will cry.
Tomorrow everyone will be back to normal, back to work and school. The sun will come up and I anticipate my heart will continue to beat like it has every morning since August 28, 2015. With these constants in place, I have no other choice than to live my life. 22 families have been devastated every day since Tyler’s suicide ripped the heart out the Westbrooks and Williamstown,WV. I wake up every morning and think about 22 more families and communities being torn apart like we were. I imagine each suicide as a ripple on water and the far reaching ripples over lapping as they spread out. Considering the number of people touched by each ripple, this statistic has to have a profound affect.
We, as a nation, need to stop asking generation after generation to do things under the guise of “protecting our freedoms” that they are not able to live with afterwards. The latest generation of military is a very small percentage of the population and has been asked to sacrifice more than any before. Never ending war is not the answer.
I will “Honor the Warrior, Not the War” along with my brothers and sisters in VVAW. I will support VFP in returning to Armistice Day and as always work to bring them all home.
Peace today and all days,
Marcia Westbrook, MFSO