The Pandemic, The Ghosts of War, and a Brother Lost

Officials knew of the danger in this pandemic. They even wrote about it as the “social distancing” requirements were pushed out. As businesses closed, and unemployment skyrocketed, they mentioned a possible rise in suicides. The incessant fear mongering of the media,  the loneliness of being “socially distanced” from friends, of being locked in the home…it takes a toll, especially on veterans with PTSD. Rory Patrick Hamill was a mentor to veterans. A Marine veteran, a father to three and brother to many, Rory took his own life yesterday, leaving a void in the lives of those who cared about him.

Fighting a different kind of war

Cpl Hamill stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his leg while deployed with Golf Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines. He grew up in ‘an abusive family’ according to a few news outlets, (please see the family response to this statement below), but when he joined the Marine Corps, he found the family he never had before. Rory was working on his degree, and was expected to graduate from Monmouth University in 2022. President Barack Obama awarded his Purple Heart at Walter Reed Hospital in 2011.

Seven years ago, he thought about suicide, as many veterans do after trauma, but stopped when he thought about his children. He disassembled his gun and threw the pieces all over the car. He became a mentor to veterans, a speaker, a source of inspiration and hope.

“Self maintenance is continual. There’s no band-aid solution to what you’re going through. Just learn, evolve, and adapt to it. Use your circumstances to help other people, and you’ll find that you’re actually helping yourself…Keep pushing.”  Rory Hamill, February 13

COVID-19 Pandemic, 2020 

The government stripped people of their ability to be with others. And it’s the camaraderie that helps veterans cope. They are a brotherhood, a sisterhood, a family. Remove the family, and the pieces begin to fall apart. We have seen this time and time again when veterans become isolated, they lose their sense of self-worth. Hopelessness takes over, and the future becomes too dim to grasp.  For Rory, it was too much to bear.

“I began writing this at 03:46 in the morning, on April 19th, 2020. I’ve been drunk on red wine since the previous night. I haven’t slept. I haven’t stopped suffering. My own personal hell has been reignited, in light of present circumstances affecting us all. This pandemic, although viral in nature; alludes to what happens to us as human beings, when we are stripped of our outlets, and are deprived of our ability to socialize.” Rory

Rory took his own life on May 1, 2020. If foresight could be better than hindsight, governments would understand that their actions can have terrible consequences over and above their intended goal. The following paragraph is from someone who was in Afghanistan at the same time as Rory:

“Incredibly saddened to just learn of my fellow combat veteran brother, Rory Patrick Hamill, he took his own life yesterday. We were in Afghanistan in 2009 together; clearly not same unit. We may never know why, or what snapped yesterday inside his mind but the cumulative stressors of life as a veteran with PTSD can sometimes be just too much to cope with. Top that with, social distancing and COVID pandemic, being out of his normal routine, not seeing friends, not going out doing public events, basically keeping him and everyone in isolation-not ideal for a Vet that suffers with PTSD. He IS a father of 3, he was a veteran mentor, speaker, and friend. HE WILL BE GREATLY MISSED IN THE COMMUNITY. I LOVE YOU BROTHER. #22ADay.” Hope Bassinger (Facebook)

Rory Patrick Hamill mattered. One more precious soul lost. Awareness of the suicide deaths of our veterans and active military means reaching out, paying attention, touching base. Let them know they matter, that they are important. Their ghosts of war are real. Their fight to survive over the anxiety is real. We have to do better.

Update: We received a note from Rory’s sister, who told us that he did NOT grow up in an abusive family. Here is part of what she told us:

“Rory battled demons for years. Nobody knows that better than his family. We were there with him, helping him, supporting him, every single day, until he didn’t want us to be. And even then, we kept trying. Even though he didn’t allow us into his life, the rest of the family bonded together and kept hoping that he would come back to us, so that we could all begin to heal. As we all know, he didn’t. We are all reeling from the horrific choice he made, and are heartbroken that he did not reach out to us for help in his darkest hour.

I have watched my brother slander my parents for years; out of the unconditional love that they have always had for him, they did not respond or retaliate, nor did they allow my younger brother and I to do so. They let him, because they hoped that one day, he would find the peace and help that he needed to rebuild the bridges that had kept our family apart. If, by making demons out of us and making us the ones to carry the burden of his pain, he would choose to continue to live, it was worth the sacrifice. We never would have spoken up because of our love for him, but this story is now getting national attention, and we need to defend and protect ourselves.” Rory’s sister

Featured photos of Rory are all from Instagram and Facebook

Article above shared from Uncle Sam’s Misguided Children

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The Critical Part of the Story: Remembering Rory Hamill by Dead Reckoning Collective

When the helpers cannot help via Hearld Tribune

Virus shutdowns took a grim toll on amputee veterans who died by suicide, families say via Washington Post

Decorated combat vet who died highlights pandemic’s effect on mental health via CBS News
 
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