WDAY: The News Leader

Published September 09, 2010, 10:31 AM

Family uses tragic story to address suicide prevention at Veterans Summit

Fargo, ND (WDAY TV) - The state’s first ever "Veterans Summit" is underway in Fargo at the Armed Forces Reserve Center. In north Fargo today, they addressed issues like suicide prevention.

By: Kevin Wallevand, WDAY

The day included a heart wrenching story from a mother who lost her two boys. One on the battlefield, another took his life. She and her husband now travel the country, talking about their loss, so others may be spared the tragedy.

“There are many soldiers who have wounds you can see and many you cannot see. And I would tell you those are as tough and serious.”

General Mark Graham thought he’d be retired from the Army by now, but instead he has an assignment no top ranking officer would ever choose: Talking about the loss of his two sons.

“Both my sons died fighting different battles.”

The ROTC college student Kevin, who took his own life after battling depression, then just months later, son Jeff, killed while saving his platoon in Iraq.

“For us to survive the pain and some sort of meaning and purpose we are raising the dangers of untreated depression.”

Today the boys' mother Carol, often with her husband General Graham, talked with soldiers and others about preventing suicide.

“I thought we had one of those Disneyworld families.”

“We did not know what we were dealing with and did not realize it was a medical illness.”

Being proactive, recognizing the signs, instead of dwelling on the what-if after a loved one has taken their life.

“I want to talk to you about suicide, and how it can save soldier's lives. We have lost too many to suicide. It has to stop.”

And what a tragedy, burying one son Kevin who himself fought a stigma filled battle with depression, and Jeff honored for a sacrifice on yet another battlefield.

“They died fighting different battles. Kevin truly fought that battle of depression on the inside he was hiding it ashamed he went off his medicine he did not want anyone to know.”

Grief can be a type of insanity. At the end of the day it is the only thing to come back to, is that they were a gift and it was a blessing to be their mother. And they will tell you, pain makes some people bitter and envious and others sensitive and compassionate.

Traveling and sharing a very personal loss in hopes of sparing others that pain.

Suicide prevention and P-T-S-D are among the biggest concerns facing the military and soldiers returning from deployment. Today at the Veterans Summit, Soldiers were able to hear about the myths and stigma surrounding suicide, along with warning signs families can look for and importance of getting federal funding of veterans programs.

“Difficulties many are having, whether it is PTSD or closed head injury risk of suicide needs extra attention, it is a development that is a consequence of war and like we made changes in the battlefield. We need to make changes here at home so that make sure we are serving those who served us.”

North Dakota soldiers will appear in a "soon to be released" video focusing on mental health.