After suicide attempt, combat veteran finds his voice
By Jeremy Schwartz
Source: Austin American-Statesman
Published: Saturday 06 April, 2013
Just before dawn, Andrew O’Brien flipped his laptop open, turned on his webcam and prepared to tell the world the most personal story of his life.
On the first try, the lump in his throat caught his voice and tears welled in his eyes. He tried again, he said, but the words kept jumbling together. His mind raced back to the night his world collapsed, to the horrible mistake he almost made.
On his fourth try, O’Brien looked into the tiny keyhole of the webcam: “So here’s the story,” he said, his voice steady now. “I snapped one day and decided to take every pill I could get my hands on.”
Four minutes and 23 seconds later, the 24-year-old finished the video. But he hesitated before uploading it to YouTube. There was a reason no other soldier he knew of had ever gone public with their suicide attempt. It’s a taboo subject in general and especially among young soldiers, who too often view talk of feelings as a sign of weakness.
For O’Brien too, a suffocating silence — the unexpressed feelings, the untold stories — had marked his return from war to his Army post in Hawaii. He came home with nightmares that had started after the night in Iraq when he disobeyed an order, looked under a tarp covering a bomb-blasted armored vehicle and saw something his mind couldn’t erase.
He kept his struggles hidden from his fellow soldiers, and even from his big brother Lee, an Army infantryman he had followed into war. O’Brien rode his pain alone, into the abyss, but unlike nearly 1,500 other active-duty service members in the past five years, he survived his suicide attempt.
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