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  • Jess Brown

God, I hope so.

****Warning-means is mentioned****

We demand a culture shift, starting with military reprioritization!

I would truly love to introduce you to my brother, Sergeant First Class Zachary Morgan Brown. He was always a gregarious, friendly guy. He wore a white button up shirt, clip on tie and cowboy boots to 1st grade.  He was a loving husband. He was the kind of father who would clown around with his 5-year-old. Zach volunteered to build blanket forts for movie night. 

You can see the happiness radiating on their faces in photos.

These photos are all we have now because despite all the warning signs, pleas for intervention, and promised 'help' this exemplary NCO hung himself in the 'cool-off' barracks. He was alone, surrounded by trash and vodka. Zach was our world. Unfortunately, he is now just an alarming statistic. Just one of 22 members of the armed forces who die by suicide every day. They all leave behind families who struggle to put the pieces of the puzzle together.

Zach's puzzle includes being recruited near Financial Aid at University of Colorado. He didn't have funds to cover his semester and that $300 monthly stipend punched his ticket to the U.S. Army Infantry. Next, when Zach was a drill sergeant at Fort Benning, the military had been defunded to the point he was forced to prepare soldiers with wooden guns. He agonized over the rookies he was training who would inevitably be sent overseas without having even heard a live round. Then, Zach worked tediously to complete prerequisites to attend Ranger school only to discover that opportunity was snuffed by Obama Administration's budget cuts.

Throughout all this, Zach continued to serve his country abroad. 

First, by himself, then joined by his wife, then later their son. Then, Covid-19 hit when they were in Germany. Medical care became more difficult to get. Mental health support was near impossible. Military rehab beds were (and are) full. How many underserved members of our military are struggling with depression and self-medicating because the help they need is not available?

How can we allow someone who is asking for help, whose family is asking for help, whose friends are asking for help, to remain completely alone while that help remains out of reach? Zach was placed alone, in that 'cool-off' barracks. The plan was for him to wait there until a bed became available on 5/16. He hung himself on 5/8 alone in that barrack. 


Now we are waiting for answers.

The proper channels were followed. Zach reported his insomnia, depression, self-medication with alcohol, and his suicidal thoughts. His wife requested the Army to intervene. A friend reported to the chain of command details of Zach's deteriorating psyche. The response? "We're handling it."

The Army addiction counselor he saw was no help. This professional had previously told another soldier at Hohenfels to get a social life and a girlfriend when he came asking for help and rehabilitation. This soldier then killed himself in October. 

I firmly believe the Army should be held accountable for the untimely death of my brother and other service members who are not given the proper intervention and treatment they need before they die by suicide. There is a brief with my brother's name on it at the Pentagon. I believe my brother's Army brethren let him down, as did the U.S. military and government. In the battlefield of life, they left him to die. Blood is on their hands. His family could have chartered a plane, scooped him up, and paid for treatment, but that's desertion. A friend would have never left a suicidal friend's side until he made it to professional treatment.

Zach was lucky that he had so many people advocating for him, and it still wasn't enough to get a hero the help he so desperately wanted and needed. So many others don't have the support system he did. Up against the military bureaucracy this support wasn't enough. Even in my grief I worry for others who don't have anyone to advocate for them. How thin a thread are active duty members clinging to?  I wonder about the soldier who ended up in the rehab bed intended for my brother. Did he get the help so many need?

God, I hope so.


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