Why the Veterans?
Stories of Veterans
My Best Friend Died by Suicide. I Wish I Had Seen the Warning Signs. Neil was the toughest guy I knew in the Air Force. But no one taught us how to cope with PTSD.
Suicide is the No. 1 killer of active-duty airmen in the United States Air Force. In February, the crisis prompted the Air Force to release a memo calling for a culture change within the service. For me and many others, that shift is a personal charge. Six years ago, my best friend, Neil Landsberg, died by suicide. Mentally and physically, he was the strongest person I knew. If he could kill himself, who else might be struggling? I spent years trying to make sense of this.
I should have seen the warning signs. I now recognize that Neil suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. He sought help from civilian mental-health providers and from the Department of Veterans Affairs. The civilian hospitals seemed completely unprepared in 2013 to help a combat veteran with PTSD, and the V.A. told him it could not enroll him because his medical records were not on file. He followed the V.A.’s application process, only to receive a letter denying him treatment because his income was too high. The letter arrived three weeks after Neil died.