A soldier’s suicide and his mother’s grief are tragic part of nation’s larger mental health issues among veterans
By Paul Liotta
July 29, 2019
“I wanna be the person I know I can be -- clean from drugs,” John wrote. “I want to get my life back in order ... I want my family to be proud of me again.”
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- John King served his country, but when he came home, his family says the system failed him like it has too many other veterans.
After just two years and four months in the Army, King returned home to Staten Island with severe physical and mental injuries. He spent years trying to get help, but on Oct. 7, 2017 he took his own life.
His death is part of an upward trend in suicide that many in America have been working to reverse.
“These guys are brothers,” John’s mom Sandra King said. “They went through something none of us will ever understand. They went -- they gave up their lives for us.”
The Oakwood resident signed up for the Army in 2007 at the age of 17, and quickly found himself in the middle of Iraq during that year’s troop surge. John was honorably discharged in 2009 following his injuries.
For the bulk of his time in the Army, John -- a member of Task Force 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry dubbed the “Black Lions” -- sat in a Humvee gunner seat driving along the Baghdad Airport Road designated “Route Irish.”
Spc. James “Boomer” Lamonde met John in Iraq during their service and developed a close friendship when they returned to Fort Riley. He remembers John like a little brother.
“He was young,” Lamonde said. “He was a baby. Still a goofy 18, 19-year-old kid that wasn’t broken yet fully. But John was a good dude. Anything you needed, if you needed him, he’d help you out.”
In 2008, John was separated from the rest of his company for four days facing enemy fire following orders that would allow the rest of his team to advance. According to the certificate of commendation awarded with his Army Achievement Medal, John’s actions allowed his company to safely move forward and set up position.
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