Veteran: 'I just always hoped that I would be in that freak car accident'
10 hours ago
By Cindy Uken
When Casey Elder enlisted in the Montana Army National Guard as a 17-year-old, she was not impressed with the organization’s nearly nonexistent suicide-awareness plan.
She and her friends called it a joke.
She recalls attending a short class during basic training on how to recognize the warning signs of depression and suicide and how to report it. She recalls no specific training prior to her deployment to Iraq, where she worked as a gunner for security envoys, armed with an M249 squad automatic weapon, an M16 and pistol.
While helping rebuild Baghdad’s police departments, her Humvee was struck by a roadside bomb. She suffered permanent nerve damage in her wrist, elbow and shoulder. She suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury.
When she arrived home, Elder, now 28 and living in Billings, said there was a little more talk about suicide awareness and prevention during a one-hour PowerPoint program and she was handed an 800 number to call.
“That’s about the extent of it,” she said.
Once Elder left the Guard, she became separated from those with whom she deployed and others in the military. She did not talk to her fellow service members and became despondent.
“I never wanted to take my own life, but I did struggle with wanting to be dead and not having to deal with the struggles, the PTSD and the brain injury,” Elder said. “I just always hoped that I would be in that freak car accident.”
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