Nearly a year after her husband committed suicide, Air Force widow still wonders why
They’ve lost more (active-duty military) to suicide than overseas. They were technically killed there, too. So, don’t discount them,” Melissa said. “It’s the same battle, just a different battlefield.”
NWF Daily News September 17, 2011
MARY ESTHER —Jeremy Gibson is a casualty of war, but you won’t find his name on any memorial wall.
On a balmy Monday afternoon last Oct. 11, the Hurlburt Field Explosive Ordnance Disposal technician dialed 911, walked into his backyard and took his life.
“He shot himself in the heart,” said his wife, Melissa.
Jeremy was 31.
In the 11 months since then, Melissa has been forced to cope with blame from others and the guilt she harbors. There were no signs that Jeremy was contemplating suicide, but Melissa says she will play the “what if” game until the day she dies.
Jeremy wasn’t a complicated guy. The native of Chattanooga, Tenn., was incredibly smart, good at math and chemistry and often was misjudged as a “know-it-all.”
He knew a lot about cars and loved racing at amateur tracks. He and Melissa would go on drives in his blue Mini Cooper with no destination in mind. Jeremy always picked the winding roads for “precision driving” (aka speeding).
Melissa said he ate French fries only for the texture in his massive consumption of ketchup.
He was like a kid on Christmas when Melissa returned from the store with Blue Monster energy drinks and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.
He taped and edited videos for fun and brought his wife a snow globe from every TDY.
Melissa called Jeremy her little James Bond.
His work took him to Peru with President George W. Bush and to Paris with Colin Powell. He covered the Republican National Convention and guarded the Bush family on Thanksgiving Day.
There were missions with explosives so massive that Jeremy did not bother with a bomb suit; it wouldn’t have helped.
Melissa hates that a man that heroic is judged by friends, family and strangers. She braces herself for judgment every time she has to tell someone how Jeremy died.
Melissa wants people to remember his achievements, not the day he lost hope.
“He went from the lowest of the low to flight chief. He was a tech sergeant and had two Bronze Stars,” she said.
Melissa’s own dream of joining the military did not die with her husband. She would love to be a nurse and save lives like her husband did every time he detected and dismantled a bomb.
Jeremy believed in what he was fighting for, she said.
Melissa will never replace the pride she feels for her husband’s service with any anger for ending his life.
She would do anything to remove the stigma associated with military suicide. She calls the topic a bastard child in this society.
“They’ve lost more (active-duty military) to suicide than overseas. They were technically killed there, too. So, don’t discount them,” Melissa said. “It’s the same battle, just a different battlefield.”
Jeremy was very familiar with the battlefield. He spent two of his last four years deployed.
The only things that slowed the six months on/ six months off rotation were ankle reconstruction and spinal fusion surgeries. Lugging around the heavy EOD gear had taken its toll.
Jeremy had been home nearly a year recuperating from the back surgery and had the ankle reconstruction about six weeks before he died. He was scheduled to deploy to Afghanistan in January.
“You could tell when he came back when the deployments were really, really hard,” Melissa said