ALTUS AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. — I was a young Airman, accused of a crime I didn’t commit – I faced a court martial with an outcome of a dishonorable discharge, years in prison and civil limitations for the rest of my life. I was ultimately found not guilty, but not before I tried to kill myself.
I was new to the Air Force. I was looking forward to a long career, hoping to make senior master sergeant or chief someday.
All my goals were shaken one day when I had to report to my base’s Air Force Office of Special Investigations.
For a year and a half, I had a shadow over me. I did my best to work hard, learn my job, and earn the respect of my peers and supervisors; then the day came I was told a court martial was in my future. I was denied promotion to senior airman, stripped of my security clearance, and lost my flight’s support by being moved to another section.
I found myself in a black hole I couldn’t escape from.
Nobody asked if I needed counseling from a chaplain. Nobody asked if I was okay. Nobody seemed to care except for a couple of friends and my family back home.
We are all Airmen. We are all supposed to look out for one another, care for each other. Each lost life only diminishes the force as a whole. I wish more people had checked up on me. I might not have sunk so low.
I soon turned 21, and I drank.
I became an alcoholic. Every day after work I went home, showered, and hit the bars. I was having fun forgetting my worries.
I arrived to work late and smelling of alcohol. What did I care? These weren’t my co-workers who had my back. These were strangers. I worked for them during the day and went to my room at night.
I was in a darkness that I didn’t know how to get out of. I found myself several times in my truck wanting to drive as fast as possible, hit a pole, and end it all.
Nobody saw the signs.
My best friend, my co-worker, the man I consider a brother, was the only one who saw my pain. He asked me why I had a large amounts alcohol in my room. He didn’t chew me out, give me paperwork and leave, unlike some supervisors.
He asked why I was doing something that wasn’t me. He asked me why I was broke all the time when I lived in the dorms and didn’t have bills. He asked me why I looked terrible in uniform when I used to have pride in my appearance. He asked, and I answered.
I told him I was lost. I didn’t see a future for myself. I didn’t know who to turn to for help. I told him everything.
He took me into his family. He showed me I was wanted. He showed me that people cared for me. He showed me why I should live and who I would hurt if I didn’t, so I decided to live.
I was eventually found not guilty of the crime I was accused of. I was able to go back to work, to my friends. My whole life was opened again for me.
I am now ashamed for my thoughts of suicide. I could never imagine the pain I almost inflicted upon my friends and family. I can’t fathom never meeting my wife or seeing my baby boy growing up.
I owe everything I am now to my friend – all because he asked “why.”