This is a photo of my cousin, Steve; he was a physician. As an adult, I kept track of him through my mom, who kept in touch with her sister, his mother. Last week my mother called to say that Steve had committed suicide.
Steve was a Lt. Col. in the Air Force and chief of medical operations for an air force base in the U.S. In 1996 he was stationed in Saudi Arabia when some people who opposed the U.S. politics and intervention bombed an Air Force barracks. Steve was thrown across his room in the barracks and injured with a chest wound. Despite his wounds (that needed surgery) he roused himself, helped evacuate others, walked to the medical compound and began to treat the injured. Others realized that he needed surgery himself and forced him to stop treating the injured. He was awarded the Purple Heart and the Air Force Airman's Medal.
Steve also rescued civilians from hiking, mountaineering and other accidents. he took care of the personnel and families at the various Air Force bases to which he was assigned.
His co-workers and superiors all praised his good humor, his excellent medical skills, his humor, his ability to defuse difficult situations with a smile, a one-liner or good humor, his willingness to go out of the way to help others without being asked. They unanimously volunteered that he was both an outstanding leader, a mentor and a hero to them. Air Force personnel around the globe mourn his loss.
As does his family. He comes from a close knit family. His parents are involved in their church and in their community. His mother, who finished high school, is on the Fire Commission Board, among others. His father, who worked on an assembly line and moved up to management, is on the town board, among others.
Why would such a talented, loving and well loved man kill himself? He who regularly and selflessly saved lives in war and in peace? Was it because of the depression he suffered since the 1996 attack on the barracks in Saudi Arabia? Was it because of the debilitating and severe headaches that run in our family?
We don't know.
I never talked politcs with Steve. We probably agreed more than we disagreed--he was committed to defending our country by saving lives in war. I oppose the wars and battles our country has recently fought.
Oh, if my knitting could ease the pain of his parents, his sisters and his friends. If only I could knit a magic, healing shawl that would take the place of his comforting hugs, jokes and smiles.
Many members of the Air Force attended the memorial service for Steve. Each of them was a loyal friend and said that Steve was their hero. Each of them wished Steve had shared his pain so that they could have helped. I was so very, very impressed with all of the service people I met at the memorial.
If you oppose the U.S. foreign policies, do not oppose the military service people. They are all human, and they all suffer while they perform their jobs. My cousin is a casualty of a terrorist bombing--10 years later.