Loud curses were ringing from the master bedroom when I got home from work one day. Curious, I opened the bedroom door to find my husband, CPO Jerald Kruse of the United States Navy, standing there alone. That’s when I knew he needed help.
Two years later, after our pleas to medical personnel went unheeded, Jerald went to the back yard, put a gun to his head, and committed suicide.
When Jerald and I met in 2003, we had instant chemistry. Both single parents, we quickly fell in love and soon began living together. Our families blended nicely, and we were happy. As our first year together passed, however, Jerald started having an issue with sleep. He could not get enough. For some reason, falling asleep and staying asleep brought anxiety instead of relaxation. Then in 2004, he began rocking his chin to his knees, back and forth.
After the solitary cursing incident, I expressed my concerns over what was happening to his mind, and Jerald told me he couldn’t concentrate at work. He worried whether he could still maintain the safety of his fellow men. With all of the obvious signs, we both agreed it was time to get professional assistance.
Jerald, like a lot of military men, was a proud man; he told me how incompetent he felt in seeking help. He was worried what people would think and what would be placed in his military record. However, he put pride aside on June 30, 2005, to go to counseling at Naval Portsmouth Medical Center. It was a difficult decision for us to make. I went with Jerald to that appointment and the four others that followed. I could not understand why nothing changed and why no medication was prescribed. It seemed so obvious to me he desperately needed help.
On Aug. 2, 2005, I escorted Jerald to what would be his last counseling appointment. The rocking at this point was so intense that dinner dates were no longer an option. Jerald’s fingers were bloody stumps, and the man I fell in love with was slipping away with anxiety. On the way to the session, I was very concerned about the lack of medicine. Hadn’t the psychiatrist noticed his rocking of back and forth? At this point, he was doing it constantly, even during work.
Jerald returned to the waiting room that day with a look of defeat in his brown eyes. When we got to the Suburban, he broke down sobbing. “What happened?” I asked. “Did he give you anything?”
“No,” Jerald said wearily. “He told me I drink too much caffeine!”
I knew by this point that caffeine clearly was not the issue; however, at Jerald’s fear of losing the military career and retirement he had worked so hard for, we figured we could fight through the pain. When Jerald pulled the trigger five months later, on January 1, 2006, he had less than a year before he would have hit his 20-year retirement mark.
Neither Jerald nor I was skilled at fighting this kind of battle. We were afraid of disappointing the people we so dearly trusted and, at the same time, feared. Four years later after I found my husband laying in the back yard, I am still looking for answers.
My family has paid the ultimate price for the military’s bias against mental health treatment. Leadership seems to believe that a person in the military should not have mental health issues and should not get medication. Our military are some of the most important people of this great nation, yet they are shunned for getting help. If treatment is too little or too late and someone commits suicide, the family is shunned because of how the death happened. Grief goes misunderstood, and lives get shattered. “If only I had done this or that” plays over in the mind of those left behind. Never knowing “what if?” is a problem deeper than the help that is currently out there.
My children and I will never again hear his voice, feel his touch, or sing in the car together. I will forever dwell on this earth without the love of my life. I would not wish on anyone the pain and horror my family has experienced. I wouldn’t even wish it on the doctor who told Jerald he had to cut back on caffeine.
My dreams will forever be haunted by “what if?” However, my determination to stop this from happening again will never subside.
My husband was stationed at Seal Team Two, Little Creek, VA. I am his proud wife and a survivor of a military suicide.