COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- On a day set aside to honor those who lost their lives while serving our country, veterans who die by suicide are often overlooked. James Meredith of Colorado Springs is hoping to change that.
James's only child, Garrett, was his world. He was 25 years old when he ended his own life on Monday, May 24, 2021 -- exactly one week before Memorial Day.
Garrett followed his father's footsteps by joining the Army in 2015. He spent four years in the military and served two tours in Afghanistan. He left the military in 2019 and began building his post-military life in Colorado Springs, with his wife and two dogs.
James said Garrett's platoon members struggled when they returned home, many of them died by suicide. Garrett was always reaching out to his friends who were struggling. He said Garrett would drop everything to help his friends. One of Garrett's best friends took his own life a few weeks ago.
James never expected that his son was struggling the same way. He never asked for help. It left James with questions he knows he'll never get answered.
"What did I do wrong? What, what did I miss? The worst thing is I'll never be able to talk to him again, never will see him again. That right there tears me up because I … I'll never see my son again," James said.
James served around two decades in the Army, and he spent more than four years deployed overseas. He knows how difficult it can be to return home, and while he loves the military, he doesn't think there's enough support for soldiers returning home.
"They're quick to push the meds and not figure out what the problem is. You know, what is the legit problem? They just want to give you a pill; go back to work and take these pills and everything would be great. It doesn't work that way. They tried that with me," James said.
He knows there's a stigma around asking for help, but James is hoping to change that.
"Reach out, if you're going through it, reach out. If you're not, and you were around soldiers, reach out and talk to them. Just to call and say hi, how are you doing today? Is not that bad. Why have a permanent solution to a temporary problem?" James said.
It's estimated that more than 20 veterans die every day by suicide in the United States. To learn more about the problem, click here.
If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health or suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. You can also reach out to the Colorado Crisis Services Center at 1-844-493-8255, or text “TALK” to 38255.