I lost one of my former Marines to suicide a couple weeks ago, the night I found out I sat down and typed a letter to his mother. She has been having a really tough time, understandably, so instead of sending it too her right away I saved it until the time was right. I sent it to her this afternoon, because I knew she would appreciate the thought and enjoy what I had to say about her son. She wrote me back within minutes saying it was exactly what she needed to her because she was beginning to feel like people were thinking her son died a coward, and it couldn’t be more opposite. He died a damn hero. He was a veteran of two wars both Iraq and Afghanistan and was a “Marjah Marine” fought in the only offensive ever in Afghanistan and lived. He fought for two years after he got out with demons and he did what he had to do. Below I am posting the letter I wrote and delivered, but I do so with the intention of trying to get rid of this stigma that Veterans carry with them. It is okay guys to reach out and get help, trust me, the public won’t think any less of you. If anything they will appreciate the humanistic side of you and it will get better. PTSD is claiming more lives than the actual war, 22 Veterans everyday take their own lives, and that is a statistic from January of 2013. For the civilian populace out there, reach out, shake a hand, or give a hug, sometimes that is all it takes.
How can anyone quantify another one’s life? I do not know how to, but there are some people that you meet in life that fill one’s soul, they pack it full of love and joy. Laughing til tears fall down each other’s faces, crying til we laugh again. Feelings are so powerful, tangible and intangible. Being so cold, wet, and miserable that you find warmth. Seeing a soul that is so wild and free that it reminds you of the raging Colorado River. A Warrior so brave he’d stand to battle ten thousand men, alone, but he’s never alone, because he is a United States Marine. But this Marine tried to fight the battles of the demons all alone, and I cannot blame him. Society wants us to be strong, tough men, all we want is a means to an end. Dane Michael Freedman call sign: Freebird, and that is just what he was. A free bird sailing high above ground, probably against the wind because that is just the way he was, not bound by what society deems to be acceptable. He fought courageously and literally would run through a wall if told too, and he did. He was the most loyal Marine anyone could ever hope for, but more importantly he was the best friend anyone could ever dream of. No matter the time nor situation you could be assured that Freebird would be right there with that smile, and a smoke hanging from his lips, almost as if he were egging you on, even if you didn’t realize it right away. As I write this I feel horribly guilty afraid that there are more memories of him than I could possible ever share, and some that I want to just keep to myself. I hope that you will understand but even I am having trouble finding the words but Dane was such a complex character that I feel like some of the things he’s taught us or laid out for us have yet to be defined. Like his sudden or perhaps not so sudden departure from us. I will admit that as a Marine religion will forever be a struggle for us to understand and I can remember having very deep thought provoking conversations with Dane about it. Dane’s passing was not because he “lost a battle with PTSD” your son would never accept defeat no matter the opponent. Nor did he lose to the Taliban, Al Qaida, or the Mujahadeen. As a matter of fact he was victorious, he did what he had to do to win the fight, and rest assure that our duty now as his fellow Marines, friends, or family is to tell his story. Live his dreams, fight his battles, love his loves. We have to take Dane’s indomitable spirit and let it burn right through. The unlucky ones are the ones that never got the chance to meet him and feel his presence. I feel very fortunate to have ever met Dane, let alone get to be his Squad Leader and teach him how to be a fighter and an even more lethal Machine Gunner than he already was. I will try and end this by telling you a quick story about your son. One day Dane and I or at the time he was Boot Freedman and I was his salty Lance Corporal trying to pick his brain out in the middle of some ungodly jungle in Hawaii. It was late probably 3 or 4 in the morning and I was asking him just the usual get to know him type of questions, mainly because I could already tell he was a squared away Marine and wanted him on my squad, but one way or another I asked him “So what do you think you’re gonna do when you get hit? You’re just gonna be crying and screaming for your mom.” I was trying to goat him into actually opening up and telling me the truth but oddly I didn’t have too he was already prepared for it. He replied back very quickly “I wouldn’t be screaming and crying for my mom or my family, they already know I love them more than anything and well there aint nothing they could really do for me if I were crying, hell if anything I’d probably just ask for a cigarette and die like a fucking man.” And that is Dane Michael Freedman.