Monday, October 6, 2014

Son's Suicide Made Her a Gold Star Mom

Military families cope with suicides
In December, 2008, LaDart married his girlfriend, with whom he would later have a son.

Deemed by the Army to be fit for service, LaDart began helicopter mechanic training at Fort Eustis in Virginia. His problems continued to the point that he was disciplined and demoted. He then referred himself to military behavioral health providers, who once again diagnosed him with PTSD and ADHD and started a treatment program. The Army then sent him to Germany as a tactical vehicle driver.

Things continued to deteriorate, though. LaDart threatened a superior. He expressed thoughts of killing himself and others and told his commander that he tried suicide before, Army records say. But under what the Army calls "intense care," LaDart's mental health improved. He was promoted to specialist and won the Soldier of the Month competition.

"Absent PTSD symptoms, he was returned to duty," Army records show.

Things started looking up for LaDart. He was assigned to Ft. Belvoir in Virginia in September 2011. In April 2012, he completed the Army Warrior Leadership Course, "an important developmental career step," according to the Army. But a few weeks later, his life cratered again.

A domestic dispute with his wife led to his removal from the home. A protective order was issued against him and the Army considered more discipline. His commander requested a mental health evaluation. Medical officials at the fort's hospital reviewed LaDart's recent mental evaluation and determined he was not a threat to himself or others. He kept his next mental health appointment on May 29, 2012, made no mention of suicide and talked about the future.

On June 4, LaDart arrived at work "without any outward display of distress," Army records say. "He returned to his family quarters during lunch and had a phone conversation with his wife in Louisiana. Tragically, David hanged himself in the garage without leaving a suicide note."

He was 25.

The news arrived in Florida at 3 p.m.

Debbie McLean was driving home from work when she got the call from her son's mother-in-law that LaDart killed himself.

"I had a mental breakdown in my vehicle," she says. "I am surprised I didn't walk into traffic."

McLean says she knew her son was having difficulty and was separated from his wife. But she didn't know of the PTSD diagnosis or the suicidal thoughts.

"I knew nothing," she says."I just knew he was dead."

The suicide sent McLean into a downward spiral. "I went into my own hole," she says. "It was like someone took away my whole world. Everything I believed in."

Adding to her misery, her son was placed in a casket in a sergeant's uniform, but before being transported to Louisiana, the Army realized he had been promoted in error and ordered his uniform changed, shocking the family during the viewing.

It was all more than McLean could handle. Depressed, she was prescribed Zoloft, Xanax and sleeping medications. At one point, she was involuntarily committed under the state's Baker Act.

McLean says she wasn't suicidal, but "I have thoughts of wanting to be with my son. A longing to be with my son. What mother who loves her son would not?"

From David Isaiah LaDart Healing of the Wounded Spirit

During that time I had suffered a TBI and PTSD due to a head injury, I received care in WTU Wurzburg, Germany for which I was declared 80% disabled, the Army Chief of Staff, General Ray Odierno, told my mother, Debbie McLean, Jan 3, 2014, that I should have been Med Boarded, Hospitalized and sent on for my VA benefits and SSD benefits, to go on to live life, as best as possible, not be told that I could sign and be put back 0% and go back to Full Duty!!! Me being the gung ho Soldier I was, wanting to go back to war! There was a mistake!

How can a Soldier, or anyone suffering PTSD/TBI expect that they can make a decision such as this, that may affect your life, your families life, I want to know how do they expect someone in a mental state make these type of decisions?????

Debbie sent a copy of the letter she read during the ceremony,
Debbie May McLean
From the Mouth of An Amazing Daughter In Law!
Titled:I love you more.

My husband and I met in December 2007 while he was on R&R from Iraq. I wanted nothing to do with him at first because in my mind what soldier comes home for R&R looking to meet his soul mate? He spotted me out of a room full of people, and since his sister knew me she insisted on introducing us. Thankfully she did because the man that I initially shot down became my first love, future husband and father to my child.

When he returned to Iraq we talked every chance we could. He got home in late June 2008 and his sister and I drove to his parent’s lake house in Georgia to spend 4th of July together. I was already smitten but after 4 amazing days together I was in love. It’s important to know that I had never spoken those words in any other relationship, even when they were said to me. He told me that he was going to make me fall in love with him, and he did.

It was fast. He was stationed in Georgia for a short time before going to Virginia for school. He came to Louisiana a few times and I went to Virginia twice. We were head over heels in love. We got engaged in September. He decided to sell his motorcycle so I rode with him. Once it was sold he drove me to the mall. He walked me straight into a jewelry store and said “I love you more than anything and I want to you to be my wife. Pick one.”

Dave started suffering from PTSD a few months after he returned home from Iraq. He battled nightmares that were so realistic I woke up in chokeholds. He hated crowds and loud noises. He was angry and quick tempered. We sought help together and separately and in August of 2010 we welcomed a beautiful little boy into the world. My husband was on cloud 9.

The therapy and medication combination seemed to be helping, he was coping and we were a happy family. We PCS’ed to Virginia in September of 2011. He was in a different MOS and because he couldn’t fly on his medication his flight doctor decided to prescribe him something different. For months I asked how it was working and he assured me that he was fine. In early May of 2012 while my husband was away at WLC I stumbled upon an article online about Taryn Davis and the American Widow Project. The article left me with chills and an uneasy feeling in my stomach. I couldn’t fathom the pain that she and so many others went through in the wake of losing their husbands. I tried to imagine what I would do if it ever happened to me but I couldn’t.

I couldn’t picture my life without my best friend. The man I fell asleep next to every night and woke up next to every morning. The same man who shared a bowl of cereal with our son while they watched cartoons together. The man who could pick me up over his head even after I ate too many donuts. The strongest man I knew. The man who told me a hundred times a day how much he loved me. The man who promised we would spend the rest of our lives together. But on June 4, 2012 spending the rest of OUR lives together was no longer a reality, because he ended his. We were on the phone when he did it.

I hung up and called the police in Virginia and 6 hours later I was staring at 2 men in uniform standing in front of me reciting the most feared of all words when you are a military spouse “On behalf of the Secretary of Defense, we regret to inform you…” At 24 years old I was a widow and a single mother.

I used to lay with my head on my husband’s chest, listening to his heart beat because I never knew when I might not have the chance to hear it again. It still didn’t prepare me for the day that I wouldn’t. I am now one of the women I read about in the article just weeks before my husband died. I am a military widow, and as much as I hate the circumstances that have brought us together I am absolutely certain that I couldn’t find myself amongst a stronger, more compassionate group of women. from the Mouth of an Amazing Daughter In Law!
American Gold Star Mother, Debbie McLean

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