My Hero's Suicide Story: Memorial Day

A father loses his battle with PTSD

child at national cemetary

It's Memorial Day Weekend, and I find I am finally ready to write about my brother. Richard George Weeks III joined the Army Reserves straight out of high school after 911. He felt a duty to his country and it wasn't long before he was sent to Iraq. Rich didn't talk to me about his time in Iraq, but he was so proud to be in the service. It wasn't until his death that I learned from his brothers in the reserves how difficult his job as a gunner on a tank was. The toll it took on him.

Rich Weeks in Iraq

Rich struggled through a divorce, child custody, and health issues. He struggled to find a job that would support him and leave him fulfilled. But in 2013, his life was finally starting to go in the right direction. He remarried, had a son due in October, and on September 6th, he called me to tell me about a new job he had just been hired for. He was happy, and proud, and looking forward to his life. That night, Rich killed himself after a heated argument, a fight that any of us could have had. But Rich was struggling with PTSD, something I knew nothing about.

Related: Read How This Hudson Valley Dad Copes After His Wife's Suicide

As I went through my brother’s documents after his death, I found that Rich had been to the VA on at least two occasions where his PTSD was documented. His death was a casualty of war, yet he struggled to receive help to overcome his PTSD. At the time, the military didn't acknowledge PTSD as a legitimate illness. His widow fought for 5 years to finally get the spousal benefits she and her son deserved.

My biggest regret regarding the loss of my brother is not understanding what Rich was going through. Not being able to see what PTSD does to someone until it was too late. Not being able to help my little brother.

Commader TomOn this Memorial Day Weekend, as I take the time to remember my brother and the sacrifice he made, I would also like to send a huge “Thank You,” to Tommy Zurhellen. Commander Tom is a Poughkeepsie resident, Marist College Professor, veteran and philanthropist currently walking across the country in order to raise awareness and funds for veteran suicide and homelessness through the local charity, VetZero. The awareness and support that Tom is bringing to his followers and to the people he meets across the country is invaluable.  You can follow Tom's journey on Facebook each day.

Real Talk: How to start the conversation about Suicide and Depression

VetZero is the official veteran service project of VFW Post 170 in Poughkeepsie, NY. This year they are celebrating 100 years of service! More than 176 combat veterans and their families call VFW Post 170 home and are on a mission to reach ZERO veteran suicides and ZERO veteran homelessness in our community.

veteran suicide facts

Visit their website, VetZero to learn how you can help.

Tommy, you are changing the world. May your journey be safe.

Alexandra Hoffman is a hardworking NYS Trooper wife and mother of two young children living in Dutchess County, NY. In between taking care of her family, she uses her angelic singing voice to bring hope and peace to others within her church and community. By sharing her story she wants to bring awareness to PTSD and veteran suicide in hopes that no one else has to lose a sibling, parent, child or friend.