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Chris Gossett- A Veteran’s Death, My Shame

On April 15, 2012, in About Me, by Tyler Gray


In response to Nick Kristof’s 4/14 piece in the NYT “A Veteran’s Death, the Nation’s Shame” I was finally (2 years overdue) motivated to write something about Chris’s death. Immediately bellow is the original version of what I cut down to 150 words to meet the NYT guidelines for letters to the editor. In terms of why it has taken me so long to do something positive for someone who did a lot for me, I can only one answer- shame.

Due to the fact I schedule almost every minute of my personal and professional on my Google, I was able to go back to the summer of 2010 and see what I was doing in the months before Chris took his life. In short, aside from a few Facebook messages and failed attempts to get together, I never made the effort I should have to see Chris in the months since he got back from his tour and the sad day in July he took his life.

I miss you brother… Chris’ Facebook profile is still active with comments. Chris Gossett ‘s obituary.

On June 30th, 2010 I was shocked to learn (through Facebook) that my old fraternity brother and roommate, Chris Gossette had taken his own life. For anyone lucky enough to know and benefit from Chris’s friendship, this was shocking on a number of levels, but what really hurt the most was that despite a deep personal connection and knowledge of the typical “warning signs,” of PTSD, this wonderful person still took his own life.

At Chris’s funeral and wake, there was a shared sense of shock because in one way or another, we all assumed that “Chris isn’t like that and would never do something like that.” In addition to his civilian friends, Chris had a broad network of classmates who served with him in the Virginia National Guard and who were also very aware of the stresses our veterans face. None of us saw it coming. Although I will forever believe this was an accidental suicide, no longer should it be acceptable to simply be on watch for the warning signs.

In our politics today there is a lot of talk about the role of government in our lives. Rather than debating the arcane points of constitutional law, why aren’t we talking about what it means to be a citizen? The more “hands off” our local, state and national government is, the more that we, as citizens must be engaged. In a government by the people, if the government isn’t performing, regardless of who we voted for, we are all to blame. No matter how much funding the Veterans Administration receives, no government program will ever be as effective as a phone call from a friend, coworker or neighbor expressing a personal interest in a veterans welfare. If only we (as I wish I had done) all took 15 minutes out of our lives a few times a week to check on a friend or even a friend of a friend that just spent  a year defending our freedoms, we could have an immediate impact on PTSD. Trying and failing is one thing, never trying at all is quite another.

This is my abbreviated NYT letter to the editor. If you knew Chris, please do consider sending something in.You can leave a comment on Nick Kristof’s blog, Facebook profile and send his an @ reply on Twitter. Most importantly, send an email to the NYT  (print still matters).

I have never been motivated to actually write a letter to the editor before, but Nick Kristof’s 4/14 piece really struck a chord. While he is correct that more funding for the VA is needed, there are things we could do right now to reduce the number of suicides:

On July 30th 2010 I was shocked to learn that my old fraternity brother and roommate, Chris Gossette had taken his own life. For anyone lucky enough to know and benefit from Chris’s friendship, this was shocking on a number of levels, but despite the personal connection and knowledge  his friends and fellow veterans of the typical “warning signs,” this wonderful person still took his own life.

Although I will forever believe this was an accidental suicide, no longer should it be acceptable to simply be on watch for the warning signs.

No matter how much funding the Veterans Administration receives, no government program will ever be as effective as a phone call from a friend, coworker or neighbor expressing a personal interest in a veterans welfare. If only we (as I wish I had done) took 15 minutes to check in on a veteran, we could have an immediate impact on PTSD.

Chris’ Facebook profile is still active with comments:

https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000535762426

Obituary:

http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/washingtonpost/obituary.aspx?n=christopher-j-gossett&pid=144379541&fhid=4443

 

 

2 Responses to Chris Gossett- A Veteran’s Death, My Shame

  1. Dennis Gossett says:

    Thanks. I am Chris’ father thanks for your kind words

  2. sean dutrow says:

    Chris was one of my best friends. I decided to google his name after over 3 years of avoiding doing so. I served with Chris and have said since the night i found out, I never saw this coming and to this day still wonder what was going through his head. Thank you for writing this.

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