Sunday, December 20, 2015

Unspeakable Grief, Life and Death of James Morris

The headline "Veteran who killed himself during traffic stop suffered from PTSD" from the Bulletin in Oregon happens far too often. The article, much like the military, covers a trouble life Morris had before the military, almost as if it is supposed to absolve them when veterans commit suicide. The trouble is, facts prove them wrong every time they try to do it.

“Everybody was just a little bit too late. I’ve beat myself up, because what more could I have done? I know ultimately it was his decision to pull the trigger, but what could we have done?”
That came from his teacher and it couldn't have been more true. The trouble is, it is an all too familiar story.

James Morris did not commit suicide before entering into the military.  He did not commit suicide while deployed into Afghanistan.  He did everything he could to survive there but beyond that simple fact, he was willing to risk his life to save others. According to the military, every soldier is trained to be "resilient" yet this same training has not been able to prevent suicides of non-deployed servicemembers. No one can explain how those facts turned into a veteran who no longer wanted to live after all that. Then again, the military doesn't have to account for the suicides of service members they trained to be resilient when they become veterans.
"In the weeks leading up to his death, James Morris went to classes at the local community college. He played video games with his younger brother. He watched “Jeopardy” with his grandma.

All the while, a gun Morris had stolen from his grandma’s house was stashed in the glove box of his 2005 Hyundai Elantra.
In Afghanistan, Morris would go on multiday convoy missions. That’s where a group of soldiers drives for hours from one camp to another to deliver supplies or personnel. The job carried the daily risk that an improvised explosive device could go off or that the convoy would be ambushed."
The VA rated him with service connected disability of PTSD by 70%. So he wasn't one of the veterans not even trying to get help. He was not willing to give up on his future, or he wouldn't have enrolled in classes. He did not surrender hope for a better future willingly. It was eroded on a daily basis.
"James got brushed under the carpet,” said his mother, Tammy Boyd, of Bend. “He was in the war, but he lost the battle here. That could have been prevented and it’s something that needs to be changed. Somebody needs to do something.”

A police officer pulled Morris over for a burnt out headlight at Badger Road near SE Third Street shortly after 8 p.m. on Nov. 27. He and his younger brother, 24-year-old Andrew Boyd, had been on their way to Walmart. When the officer walked back to his car to run Morris’ information, Morris pulled out the gun, which was tucked near his left leg.

“He told him, ‘I’m sorry, bro, I’m gonna commit suicide,” Tammy Boyd recounted.

Andrew tried to pull the gun away . The first bullet flew just past his face.

For Morris, the second shot — just behind his left ear — was fatal.

His mother took him off life support early the next morning."
So when you read the rest of the story of James Morris, keep in mind that left behind are family members, friends and other veterans he was willing to die for. All of them are wondering when someone will actually do something that will spare others from such unspeakable grief.
"If there’s one thing Wilson wants people to know about her grandson, it’s that he had a good heart. He was clever. He wrote music, played guitar and the keyboard.

“He was always, always friendly,” she said. “Always smiling. He was just a good boy.”

Ultimately Boyd wants people to know that her son was not just the vandal some have made him out to be.

“I want him to be remembered as the honored sergeant that he was, as the good boy that he was,” she said, “and the troubled, troubled man that he had become.”"