Widow’s fight: A 40-year-old suicide, a ‘bad paper’ discharge and marijuana
October 28, 2018
A week before Christmas, Peter hanged himself from a tree in the woods near Walpole, Massachusetts. (1978)
Joanne Mills has been fighting to upgrade her husband’s 1971 ‘undesirable’ discharge from the Navy, which stemmed from a $10 bag of marijuana.
SARASOTA — Joanne Mills was all of 19, never had a boyfriend, when he sold her two pairs of shoes at the Thom McAn store in a Boston mall. “He had the most beautiful piercing blue eyes I’ve ever seen,” she recalls. She went home with buyer’s remorse — too expensive. She returned one pair hours later; the blue-eyed heartthrob was still working his shift. He asked her something like, do you ever go to the beach?
It was the summer of 1971, and Peter MacRoberts, 21, had a sky-blue two-door Ford Fairlane with a black ragtop. They went everywhere, day trips to Cape Cod, rock concerts, Frank Zappa, The Eagles, Chicago. He was a sports nut, loved to play baseball, cheer the Bosox at Fenway Park, and recite batting averages, ERAs.
But Peter was broken, and the full extent of it never became clear until much later. Even when she walked in on his unlocked apartment when they were still dating, and found him alone, electrical cord wrapped around his neck, racked with shame and despair — even then, Joanne underestimated its magnitude.
“I blocked out so much. I thought it was because we had broken up,” Joanne remembers. “But I never pursued it. I was just a kid. He made me promise I would never leave him.”
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Keep this in mind the next time you hear about how many veterans committed suicide today. None of these veterans would be included in on any reported number, but families remember their names!
"In 2016, the Veterans Legal Clinic at Harvard Law School produced a study called “Underserved: How the VA Wrongfully Excludes Veterans with Bad Paper.” It found that since the Vietnam War, nearly 2 million veterans have been dispatched with general or less than honorable discharges. Such “bad paper” can inhibit or deny completely their access to VA services."It is even higher now!