Siobhan McAndrew, Reno Gazette-Journal
May 20, 2016
(Justeen Beal) is now active in veterans support groups and speaks on suicide. She counsels other veterans, stopping them when she hears it said that loved ones would be better off without them. “Don’t ever say that,” she said. “Josh was my best friend. I am not better off without Josh. I hurt every day.”RENO — Joshua Beal will graduate from college Friday, a year after the U.S. Marine Corps sniper, warfare leader and paratrooper killed himself.
Beal, 28, who joined the Marines when he was 17, will receive the first posthumous degree ever awarded from Truckee Meadows Community College.
Justeen Beal, his wife of four years, will accept his diploma.
Beal was just six credits shy of graduating from the college when he shot himself June 6, 2015. He started college after being discharged from the military after a traumatic brain injury during his last deployment.
Beal survived four tours, including in Iraq and Afghanistan, but couldn’t survive the demons that followed him home from war, his wife said.
“When you are married to someone in the military, you know that when they come back they aren’t going to be the same person,” said Beal. She said her husband was in pain and took dozens of pills a day. He went to doctors and counselors for depression.
“He said some of what he had to do were against his morals. He struggled to get back to himself,” she said.
But Beal said she never saw signs that he would kill himself.
The day he died, she was working at her family’s restaurant when she read an unusual post from her husband on Facebook.
“Just another statistic,” he wrote.
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I am torn right now, pulled between anguish and profound anger. I will never, ever, understand how so many veterans find it so acceptable to ask for help to fight during combat yet surrender their lives because they cannot ask for help after it. So why is Justeen Beal suffering after losing her husband?
Sure, they have excuses if they finally understand they need for help, look for it, then get frustrated when they don't have instantaneous relief from the pain they feel, but that does not explain why they give up fighting to heal.
Do they even know they can heal? If they did, if they knew that most veterans heal even though they cannot be "cured" then they make think twice about giving up.
After over 30 years of witnessing healing along with all the tragedies that did not have to happen, my heart breaks for all the families like Beal's because he did not have to die and they did not have to suffer. You'd never know that if all you pay attention to is the big lie of reducing the number of veterans committing suicide down to the false claim of "22 a day" giving up.
It is inexcusable for anyone to still be quoting a number they do not even begin to understand because it is an easy number for them to remember. I can assure you it is the "1" number families have a hard time living with is the 1 they lost.
Why should any of this be easy for anyone claiming to be serious about keeping them alive when they cannot even bother to read the damn report that started all this awareness? It isn't as if it was not happening before they paid attention to this. It isn't as if the numbers are just from OEF and OIF veterans when in fact the majority of the suicides involve veterans over the age of 50.
"The VA study found that the percentage of older veterans with a history of VA healthcare who committed suicide actually was higher than that of veterans not associated with VA care. Veterans over the age of 50 who had entered the VA healthcare system made up about 78 percent of the total number of veterans who committed suicide - 9 percentage points higher than the general pool."
Older Vets Committing Suicide at Alarming Rate
That is exceptionally hard to take since every effort made to help these veterans heal began with that generation, yet they have been forgotten about with all the new veterans charities popping up all over the country actually doing more harm than good. The numbers prove that but as we have all noticed, claiming to care and actually knowing how to help produce two vastly different outcomes.
Over half my life has been dedicated to defeating PTSD because my own life depended on understanding every aspect of the enemy trying to claim my husband's life and destroy mine. He will never be cured and will be in therapy for the rest of his life but it is a life worth living because he asked for help and kept trying until he understood this is just one more fight he could not fight alone.
I saw the worst that PTSD can do but see the results of what healing can do everyday we spend together and we're heading into year 32 of a marriage that most folks thought should have ended decades ago. That is what makes me more angry than anything else! Yes, our success makes me angry because too many families have absolutely no clue how to defeat PTSD.
Maybe it is because they have too much of the wrong awareness and too little of the facts? I didn't have any awareness of anything even though I grew up surrounded by Veterans. It was not until my Korean War veteran Dad met my Vietnam veteran husband that I heard the term "shell-shock" and knew I had to learn what I was getting into. If I could't understand the guy I just fell in love with, then how could I be sure it would work out?
I had to learn reading clinical books at the library, so all I knew were facts. No false claims, no hype, no competing charities claiming they had the only answer and no nonsense from social media groups with a huge following but little substance. My generation did it the hard way just like all the other generations before us, so why the hell is it harder on this generation when they have the ability to learn from their own home?
They want it easy. Easy answers to trivialized tragedies summarized by a headline grabbed from a report they didn't bother to even read.
If we ever expect anything to change then we need to start with the one thing that never, ever changed about them. They were willing to die for each other and asked for all the help they could get to do it. They are still willing to do that for other veterans and need to be willing to stay alive now.
Justeen is on the right track because she does not want another family to suffer and opened herself up to sharing a lot of pain out of hope that she can help a veteran find that will to fight within them again. She doesn't want them to leave someone behind wondering what they got wrong when loving them was only right.