Battleland

My New Family…

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Peter van Agtmael / Magnum for TIME

Rebecca Morrison with some of her husband Ian's belongings in her parents home. Ian, an AH-64 Apache Helicopter pilot in the U.S. Army committed suicide on March 21, 2012.

Thursday morning I bounced out of bed early and yelled “Oh my gosh!”

I never get up on time and certainly never bounce. But this morning I knew that I would be headed to California for the TAPS seminar.

I went to work — my elementary school where I teach third grade — and taught my lessons…but couldn’t hide my excitement over my pending trip.

So at noon Texas time I darn near bolted out of the elementary school and ran home to grab my suitcase.

It may seem strange to have been so excited to be headed to a suicide-survivor seminar, but it felt like going to a family reunion.

I boarded my plane in DFW and prayed that the flight would hurry up. Once I arrived in San Diego, I grabbed a taxi and headed out to the Paradise Point hotel. Then it hit me…

Oh my gosh I’ve flown across the country alone, a widow, and no one I know is there yet. I told myself: “You’re strong, you’ve come so far, you can do this, Ian will help you get through this.”

I made it through the hotel check-in. As I was sitting in the hotel golf cart heading to my room and about to answer the “Why am I here?” question I heard a scream. My fear instantly vanished when I saw the precious face of Petra Peterson, a fellow survivor and panelist from June’s Defense Department-VA suicide prevention conference…she was jumping up and down and yelling at the driver to stop!

I jumped from the golf cart – it was still moving! — and ran to hug her. I instantly felt safe and at home. This is what TAPS is all about.

As I type this I am sitting in my hotel room feeling content, comforted, and peaceful. It has been an incredibly painful and terrifying six-month journey getting here, and I struggle daily to understand how to live this life without my Ian. Yet, I am still standing, due to the love and support of my God, family, friends, and heroes at TAPS.

My connection with TAPS was made the night before my husband’s unit memorial.

I had survived discovering his body, his funeral and burying him. I was feeling like I could not face another service, and was looking for support from someone who “got it.”

A dear professor from my graduate school had given my father TAPS’ phone number – 800-959-8277 — and it had been sitting on my nightstand for two weeks. Somehow I felt that if I called them, it would all be real.

Still, I choked back the fear and tears and made the call. TAPS founder Bonnie Carroll answered the phone. The second I heard her voice I knew I had done the right thing.

I flooded her with my story and she listened, empathized, and reassured me. She made sure I was in a safe place and then told me about a woman named Kim Ruocco. Bonnie told me that Kim’s husband, also a helicopter pilot, had died by suicide and that Kim would want to talk to me. I hung up with Bonnie and awaited Kim’s call.

Then she called. I struggle to put this into words because our connection was so other-worldly.

Kim was truly sent by God. She listened to my awful story, the whole time saying “Oh, honey” in this wonderful Massachusetts accent. She shared her own story and promised me that I would survive this, and that she was going to be there for me the whole way.

Kim pulled me from a dark and lonely place and inspired me to face another day. That was day one. Six months later she has kept her promise. She has supported me more than I ever imagined, as well as introducing me to other TAPS heroes along the way.

My respect and love for this organization goes beyond words. They are incredible people and true heroes. I feel so blessed to be here for this memorable weekend. It is unbelievable and commendable that Kim and the TAPS team provide this seminar to survivors at no cost. Their effort attests to their dedication to military survivors.

I west to bed Thursday night with a grateful heart and look forward to seeing even more of my precious TAPS family in the morning.

Rebecca Morrison of Texas was one of two widows Time featured in its July cover story on the surge in Army suicides. Her husband, Captain Ian Morrison, an AH-64 helicopter pilot, died in March.

2 comments
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Lynn Liss
Lynn Liss

Hi Rebecca, I'm co-founder of a online community and 'game for

good' called AOK (launched with actor/activist Adrian Grenier) that makes

sharing daily positive acts and observations playful and rewarding.  I read your article in Time and have been

hoping to find a way to get in touch.  I think that we could create a

spinoff of AOK specifically built for people like Ian that are both army hero's

and ever day hero's.  A place where they can share the life contributions

they make on a daily basis and dialogue with others who while they make not be

overseas making a difference, they're here, right now, making a difference, and

they should have a place to share it.  An odd moment to share with you,

but I just caught up on several seasons of 'Parenthood' tonight, and the last

episode depicted a veteran talking about how hard it was to come back after

serving...about feeling invisible.  I immediately began searching again

for a way to get in touch with you and came across your above post, believing wholeheartedly we

can do something special together to give those who feel invisible a place to

be the super-hero's they really are.    I can be reached at

323-317-3277 or lynn@aok.tv - and I hope you'll reach out.    

luria1
luria1

Beautiful. This kind of family lifts hearts and helps heal souls.

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