Overseas Civilian Contractors

News and issues relating to Civilian Contractors working Overseas

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

September 25, 2011 - Posted by | Explosive Ordnance Disposal, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder | , , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. With all due respect, I have nothing but admiration for the work Mr. Gibson did and the service he gave to his country. I am a civilain and do not personally know any of the people involved, but this is a cause of sorrow close to my heart. From my own experience with the suicide of a loved one; I found that matter how many times I asked myself why, no matter how many packs of cigarettes I may continue to chainsmoke everyday while wondering why, no matter how many times I dream a fearful dream to wish it had been me instead; none of it ever answered the question or began to fill the emptiness in my heart.

    Years later I still grieve. I know in my heart I should try to carry on, but I grieve. I try to forget the pain, learned hard lessons about drinking too much, but I still grieve. I try to find outlets for my pain, but it comes hard. I may have started smoking years ago while I was just a teenager, but since my loss, my cigarette addiction has gotten so much worse its almost embarassing, sometimes even three or four packs a day is not enough. I make myself into a walking ashtray again and slump into depression once more, and still I grieve. None of it makes any difference, none of it helps, but most importantly, not of it helps explain why.

    The closest thing I have found to understanding, is accepting that I will not understand. I know that no words I can ever say could begin to compensate or console Mrs. Gibson for her loss, nor can I help her understand why, for I myself never have. However, as one who has personally confronted the challenges left behind after suicide, I hope that Mrs. Gibson can find solace in knowing that she is not alone.

    Comment by Becky | October 31, 2011 | Reply

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