JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas --
[Editor's Note: The hard topic of suicide is one that we here at the Air Force Wounded Warrior Program engage in every day. We hope this story will generate conversations and give you insight into the pain and misery a family feels when a loved one commits suicide.]
Brandon James Myhre was only 20 years old when he took his life at his parent’s home in California. His father, Walt Myhre, a section lead for the Air Force Wounded Warrior Program, witnessed his final moments.
“The image of him taking is life will be galvanized in my mind for the rest of my life,” said Walt. “I looked in the closet for his gun and came up empty. When I turned around, I saw him take it from under his covers, put it in his mouth and take his life.”
According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, there are 132 suicides every day, making it the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. What the statistics don’t tell you is the horror behind the act; the impact it has on the family.
“My life was shattered,” his mother Diane said. “This was my baby boy!”
“I was an absolute basket case while I held my son for what felt like an eternity,” Walt said. “I often reflect on what actions or words I could have said that would have made it all different. At times, since I was the last one to see life in my son’s eyes, I find myself with feelings of not having done enough.”
Immediately following his death, the family had to pull together, going through the motions of planning a memorial; something that many parents can never imagine having to do for their own children.
“I had to be strong for everyone,” Diane said. “I had to plan his memorial and make sure it was what he would’ve wanted. I had a job to do and there was no time to get it wrong.”
His family found some comfort in planning his memorial, as they witnessed first-hand all the lives Brandon had touched. They also remember the way Brandon made them laugh.
“He was funny,” Diane said. “He was outgoing, loved people and never met a stranger. He loved to help others even if he couldn’t afford to help them he would find a way or give them his last dollar. I think Brandon tried so hard to help others at times, that he did not think about the consequences it might have on him or his life.”
“Our family will forever grieve his tragic loss,” Walt said. “But we are thankful for the short time we were blessed to be with him. He is a remarkable person to have spent life with and was loved by so many. I just wish he could have known.”
Suicide leaves bruises on families, friends, and coworkers when someone close to them takes their life. It is a hard topic to talk about but needs to be discussed so that those with suicidal ideation know there are other ways to get through their tough times.
Some advice the Myhre’s have for those struggling with suicidal ideation, and their families, are:
- There is no shame in choosing life
- Hug more
- Celebrate every win possible
- Hang on
- Don’t alter your mindset with alcohol or drugs
- Sleep on it
- and, most importantly ask the question, “Are you thinking about suicide?”
“Suicide is not the answer!,” Diane says. “It is a permanent action to a temporary problem. Talk to people, talk to anyone, let them know what you are feeling, get it off your chest. Don’t try to solve things by yourself, get help. Life doesn’t come with an instruction book and we all make mistakes, but mistakes do not cause people to commit suicide. Sometimes it’s just a ‘Bad Day’ not a ‘Bad Life.’”
AFW2 has several resources and tools to help those struggling with suicidal ideation and their families. The program helps build resiliency and fosters an environment of “connectedness” so that no person feels alone while going through those rocky life moments.
“We must always give our very best to Warriors and families enrolled in our program and to one another as humans,” Walt said. “Everyone who knows me knows, I will do whatever it takes to keep you alive.”
AFW2 is continuously hosting virtual socials live on Facebook to help everyone cope during this time. Visit the program’s Facebook page to hear stories of resiliency, engage in wellness activities and live sporting competitions hosted by Air Force Wounded Warriors. For additional information, visit www.woundedwarrior.af.mil to refer an Airman to the program, read about the program’s mission and learn about additional services offered to caregivers and families.