Silver Lining Stories
Happier Times Remembered – As Told By The Family
Life Before PTSD
It’s not guns or pills that take the lives of our troubled Veterans; we believe PTSD uncheck and untreated is what drives them to suicide. When we answer a request for financial help, we ask the family to remember the good times before their mom, dad, son or daughter took their own life. Those stories are below and they make us remember that their ending is their whole story.
LCPL Kevin Adam Lucas
Written by: Amanda Cox, his sister
This is my brother, LCPL Kevin Adam Lucas. Adam was born on 20 September 1985, in Greenwood, MS. My brother was fun, creative, smart, and put others before himself. He is my hero.
Adam joined the Marines while he was still at Northwest Guilford High School. Right after he graduated in 2004 he was on his way to Parris Island for basic training.
He left for Iraq in March 2006. He died on 26 May 2006.
On that day, Adam took a watch that he didn’t have to. Back home, a fellow solider’s wife was about to give birth any day now. The baby’s father was due to go on guard duty, but knowing that his buddy was about to become a family man, Adam said, “I’ll go in your place.”
My brother went out for that other soldier’s watch and was killed by a sniper in Al Anbar Province, Rhamadi, Iraq that day. That soldier’s wife also had their baby the same day.
It was that decision, Adam thinking of someone else, wanting that baby to have a father, that sums up what kind of person Adam was. Adam is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
Written by: Genia his wife
Here’s a little story about Dan that I just love and wanted to share with you. I hope you will like it, too.
When my husband Dan and I met and started dating, my youngest daughter was 7 years old and when he committed suicide, she was 18 and a senior in high school. Her biological father had never been in the picture so this was the only father figure she knew. He was military so he could be pretty reserved at times but they did have a special relationship. They had little inside jokes and she would always do things to make him laugh.
Specifically, she had a piggy bank that she kept on the half wall outside of our bedroom and would leave notes for him to wake up to saying “I’m hungry. Feed me”, etc. And he would put money in it and laugh, sometimes he would write a little note back saying “Piggy needs to go on a diet, he’s too fat!” It was good to see that despite his quiet and reserved manner, he still had a fun personality and made jokes with her. This was just one example of his fun personality before he came home from the war.
Vernon Lark Smith, Jr.
Written by his wife Kimberley
Vernon Lark Smith Jr. passed away tragically on July 28th, 2020. He served his country honorably in the US Army and the Pennsylvania National Guard. He, like many veterans, suffered from PTSD and succumbed to it.
Vernon loved being in the military! He joined to give back to his country and when our daughters were born he finished out his contract, moved back home and enlisted in the national guard to make his daughter proud. He served in Operation Iraqi Freedom, all of his army buddies will tell you he was ‘”one of the best.”
He started life in Mississippi, where his father passed away when he was only 8 years old. He was then raised by his grandmother and grandfather. He felt the need to look out for his older and younger sister. He sacrificed much for them to have a better life.
Vernon joined the Army in 2007, a very proud moment for him. After his tour in Iraq, our first daughter was born. Seeing this tough guy break down in tears of happiness at the sound of our daughter crying brought smiles to all the nurses’ faces!
Two years and 4 days later we welcomed our second daughter into the world.
He finished with active duty and moved back to Pennsylvania, where he felt the need to still serve so he enlisted in the National Guard.
Our daughters are 8 and 6, and are trying to understand why Daddy isn’t around. We are surrounding them with love and support, telling them Daddy loved them so much!! The good thing is they don’t know or remember the times he suffered from PTSD. They remember the Daddy who took them fishing, would have snowball fights with them, and driving crazy doing donuts in the snow with Mommy yelling at him to slow down!
They wonder what happened? Where is he?
Vernon left this world at the age of 40! WAY TOO YOUNG!!! He was an excellent soldier but an even better Daddy!
SSGT Oscar Garza USMC
Written by his wife Natalia
A Love Letter
I love you today, I will love you forever and always.
You are stardust now, and one day we will meet each other again, but in the meantime, our beautiful children and I will remember you and cherish our memories together.
We didn’t have a chance to celebrate our 13th wedding anniversary but we did have a chance to celebrate every day a love so immense few in the world have experienced. We were so blessed to have planted deep roots together and experienced what love is about. We were so blessed that it hurts so bad not having you here by my side.
I still remember the smell of the recently washed car and still damp seats from the day we met. Thank you, you always did the little extra something that made you quite unique. Yes my love, one of a kind!
You always made me laugh. You always taught me something new and showed me how to see the world from a different point of view. We lived so many different things together, no novel is deep or long enough to include so many different emotions, passion and love in it like our real life story.
After the years we grew up together. We matured together like a beautiful tree, like that amazing little bonsai we used to have when we were dating. I got a little bonsai to celebrate our love 2 months ago for what would have been our 13th anniversary. It was a different celebration, mostly built out of memories, just like my every day now. I still wake up in the middle of the night like I have done for the past 5 months looking for that warmth of your body or the tickle of your toes…I can’t find it anymore so I go back to our memories together and feel the warmth from my heart not from a body. We adjust, we adapt and we overcome. Once again, one of your amazing teachings.
You were always so caring and selfless. You were a leader and an amazing teacher. Always volunteering, always looking to encourage the youth, you were an amazing partner, friend, father, husband, and of course, the best and proud United States Marine.
Oscar always has something funny to say, yet always ready to tackle the toughest challenge, always giving his best and an extra bit more.
Daddy-O: the best father to our children. Simple enough. Caring and loving.
Soulmate to me: My husband, you always thanked me for not leaving you when you were sick, and lived in so much pain. Please let me thank yo my love for showing me what true love is; so strong, pure and sincere. Leaving you would have never been something I wanted to do.
We remember you, we honor your teaching and love with our everyday lives because at the end of the day I feel in my heart that’s what you want for us: to keep on going, don’t look back, live life and be happy, truly happy.
I love you today; I will love you forever and always. For you my soulmate with all my love, Natalie
P.S. My lips are here sending you a last kiss goodbye.
Cedrick A. Taylor written by his Mom
Cedrick was extremely proud to be a soldier and so, so proud of his uniform. He respected his peers and made lifelong friends. They still call us and come to visit if in the area. My husband is also a member of the email group with his friends and normally they don’t allow civilians, but they all wanted him to be a part of Cedrick’s group.
Cedrick was a big sports fan. Baseball was his favorite sport (Yankees all the way). He played baseball for two teams for several years. He would play for his school team, eat and change in the car, then we would go onto his second game for our local club. Two games a night on several occasions and he loved it.
Cedrick was also a very caring and loving brother. As a kid he always took care of his younger brother AJ and sister Jackie. Jackie and Ceddy looked exactly alike. Both had same face and green eyes. She has a problem looking in a mirror now – all she sees is her brother. They were extremely close. He made us all laugh, was so funny, quick witted, and full of energy. We went to every fort where he was stationed, except Korea and Iraq. His wife did travel to Korea and stayed a few months. As you can see, his smile was warm and loving.
Cedrick also loved music. My husband is a drummer and Cedrick was his best friend. They often would go to concerts in CT, Georgia and Florida. They traveled to California together to hear different bands and meet band members. He told us it was some of his happiest memories, traveling with his father. You would always find him with an iPod or some type of music. His first correspondence from Iraq, he asked for a CD player and some “old school” music. When he came home he sat behind his father’s drums and they had a ball. Oh, and fishing. He fished since he was a little boy. As he grew, he and his father would fish anywhere, anytime. Small streams ( in Connecticut and Fort Stewart with the gators) to renting deep sea fishing boats in Georgia, the mountains of Arkansas with his uncle & aunt. We all went to Tybee Island and the Florida Keys with Cedrick as our guide. He brought us everywhere. Great family man.
Cedrick had one child, Leah, now 13 years old. She lives in Hinesville, GA. She was his heart for sure. He taught her how to swim as soon as she walked. She now is an avid swimmer and loves the water. She & her dad did everything together. They fished, played sports, etc… She now runs (like her dad), plays softball (like her dad) and is a fishing maniac. When he got divorced she lived with her mother during the school year & her dad all summer. They traveled, fished, etc…They came to Connecticut every year for the past four years for the summer. He took her everywhere ice skating at an indoor rink, hitting & playing baseball, running in the park, going to amusement parks, and museums, etc. He will be missed.
Jarod Johns written by his Mom and Dad
From Kathy, Jared’s Mom:
This seems like an almost impossible task to even do as the mother of a fallen soldier. I say that because PTSD is what took my son so I don’t look at it as a suicide.
My sweet Jared was passionate about a lot of things in his life. He was passionate about music and singing in the choir at church. Being in the chorus and drama club in high school. As passionate as he was about those two things he was just as passionate about football and playing softball.
Jared was a well-rounded person before joining the Army. He had his head on straight and he was very focused. It was never the same when he came back from Germany and Afghanistan. He was never my sweet Jared again. After he had his sons though, it helped him tremendously to start becoming that same compassionate person that he once was and it appeared that he was winning the battle with PTSD.
The very last night that he was over here at my house and I had cooked dinner for everyone, we sat in my living room and I was holding Kylan, Jared’s nephew, which was my newest grand baby. I began to rock him and sing an old hymn entitled “He Leadeth Me”.
Jared began to sing along with me, as well as his sister, his twin brother, and my husband and we all sang the entire song together sitting in my living room. It would be the very last time we would ever be together as a family with Jared alive. I will forever cherish that moment because little did I know that it would be my very last time singing with my sweet Jared. I could go on and on about my son, but there isn’t a lot more to say that I can focus on because he was just a sweet compassionate, loving soul that loved his country, and loved his family but he was fighting a dark battle from serving this country that in the end took his life.
Click here to see the video that’s gone viral with over 3.5 million views of Jared surprising his mom.
From his father Kevin:
As a boy, Jared was an avid baseball player who also enjoyed playing the drums. His real passion was singing. Our whole family is musically talented, so it came natural. One of the highlights of his senior year in high school was being able to bring his mother on stage with him to sing the song, “It is well with my soul”. He loved watching football and was a fan of the Clemson Tigers and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. One of my last conversations with Jared was about the Bucs’ victory over the Saints. He has a twin brother, Jacob, who shares his love of football and the Buccaneers. (Just not the Tigers!). Jared and Jacob were roommates and unfortunately, Jacob found his brother on that sad day.
One of my happiest memories of Jared was recently, in Mid- August of 2018, three weeks before his suicide. We went to the NASCAR Xfinity Series Mid Ohio Challenge in Lexington, Ohio. Every year we go there to my brother Gator’s house, to meet my other brother, Steve (SC), and my uncle Ray (Orlando) to have a guys weekend. The race is practically in my brother’s backyard. So close, that we drive his two John Deere Gators and a golf cart to the track. There were about 50 family and friends that tailgate together on the inside of turn #6. At one point during the race, me and Jared were so close to the cars as we stood next to the fence that you could feel the wind in our face as they raced by. I remember Jared turning to me and saying, “Dad, this is so awesome.”
The most important thing in Jared’s life was his sons, Jaxon and Liam (Germany). Liam was born in Vilseck after he left the army in October 2015. Jared visited him in May of 2018. Liam bonded with him instantly! For two weeks, he got to make up two years of time with his 1st boy. Which is evident, by the hundreds of pictures and videos he shared on his facebook page. Jaxon was born in April 2017 and lived with Jared. He took his 1st steps just six months ago. Jared liked to dress him up in matching jerseys on game day.
Until I see him again, I will make sure Jaxon wears his colors every Saturday and Sunday!
Kevin Johns, Jared’s father and Once A Soldier Board member, remember his son.
LTC Robert N. Zaza written by his Wife
My Robert was half Jew/half Christian. With love I called him my Mousy. He was funny, and a fun person. He had a beautiful smile that I hardly can’t forget and it broke my heart that I won be able to see it again. A Patriot, hero, a man of focus, commitment, sacrifice and integrity to his job serving his country; loving father and very supportive husband. He was a good servant of God. He was well educated and a gentleman. He was a human.
Robert's Obituary - written by Robert
His obituary, written by Robert:
LTC Robert N. Zaza served as the G3 Section Chief, in support of United States Army Space and Missile Defense Command, located at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado Springs, Colorado. Prior to his current assignment, he served as an Army Space Support Team Leader, 1st Space Battalion.
LTC Zaza began his military service in November 1983. He enrolled in the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) at The College of William & Mary, where he received his commission in July 1985. He entered active duty in September 1985 and attended the Armor Officer Basic Course. He served as a platoon leader and company executive officer in Cavalry squadrons, in support of the U.S. Army Armor Center and School, Ft. Knox, KY. After serving in Armor for four years, he applied for a Branch Transfer to the Military Intelligence Corps. There, he served as an Infantry Battalion S2 at Camp Casey, Korea; Division Electronic Warfare Officer, Division Counterintelligence Officer, Assistant MI Battalion S3, and Aviation Brigade S2 at Fort Hood, TX. After his service at Fort Hood, he left active service and entered the Army Reserve.
While serving in the Army Reserve, he continued serving in the Military Intelligence Corps and obtained the Space Operations Officer specialty. His reserve assignments have consisted of Counterintelligence Officer at U.S. Southern Command and the 376th MI Battalion (Linguist), Battalion S2 and Observer Controller/Trainer with the 91st Division (Training Support); Army Space Support Team Leader, 1st Space Battalion; and Doctrine Writer and Operations Center Chief, USAR STRATCOM TPU. During his Army Reserve service, he was mobilized in support of Operation Noble Eagle from 2001 to 2003, and deployed twice to Afghanistan to lead Active Component Army Space Support Team 4 at Combined Joint Task Force 180, Bagram Air Field.
His professional military education includes: the Armor Officer Basic Course, Military Intelligence Officer Transition Course, Military Intelligence Officer Advanced Course, Combined Arms and Services Staff School, Space Operations Officer Qualification Course, and Space 300.
He has been awarded four Meritorious Service Medals, the Joint Service Commendation Medal, four Army Commendation Medals, the Joint Service Achievement Medal, four Army Achievement Medals, four Army Reserve Components Achievement Medals, the Armed Forces Reserve Medal with “M” Device, the National Defense Service Medal with Bronze Star, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Korea Defense Service Medal, the Joint Meritorious Unit Award, the Air Force Senior Space Badge, and the Air Force Master Space Badge.
LTC Zaza holds a holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree from The College of William & Mary and a Master of Science in Space Systems Operation Management from Webster University. He is married to IsIsh Damav Zaza (Yishav Kohen). They have two children, Michal (Miki), and David (Bentzi). He moved to Rio Rancho, New Mexico in 2010, and worked as a contractor and a civilian employee for the U.S. Air force.
Life is unstable, redemption is possible, confidence in HaShem is conditional. We live precariously, we die certainly, we plan accordingly to our spiritual reality of the everlasting life.
My family have been through a lot together over the past years; marriages, births, deaths, risks, sacrifices, fulfillment and disappointments; wars and peace, good times and hard ones. Days when we were generous, kind and patient.
My Robert was half Jew/half Christian.
With love I called him my Mousy. He was funny, and a fun person. He had a beautiful smile that I hardly can’t forget and it broke my heart that I won be able to see it again. A Patriot, hero, a man of focus, commitment, sacrifice and integrity to his job serving his country; loving father and very supportive husband. He was a good servant of God. He was well educated and a gentleman. He was a human.
“Let’s all become more human in God’s image and likeness and be less like robots with proudness.”
Our relationship was decent, humble, lovely, close, faithful, trustful with care but now his absence is very challenging for me.
About this I feel stronger and weaker at the same time; at the same time I feel overwhelmed, with courage and terrified at the same time. I feel betrayed, abandoned, alone, confused, in shock. The truth is I don’t know what I feel, except I know I loved and forgive my husband. I hope he forgave me too. I know what kind of person I am and I know where I came from and where I belong to.
For me that knowledge, kindness, love and wisdom are powerful gifts from God. To think that we used together all of these incredible, wonderful knowledges to cultivate a life full of relationship with love, to teach our children -understanding that they belong to God; having hard works, studies, projects, tikkun olam and hobbies that gave us room to exist in this world as humble human beings, but never using the word “proudness”.
We do not want to be ignored and forgotten from people who know us.
I was not born to hate but to love and forgive.
Heavenly Father, have pity on my, I am a sinner and your servant. Have pity for my husband Robert because he had ended his life.
I humbly ask for you to forgive him for whatever circumstances force him to take this decision to leave the mortal life. I ask for your Divine Justice that may provoked his fears. Have compassion on him, give him your Divine Love and your Holy Peace. Guide and let him walk with you to heaven.
Heavenly Father, Forgive him as our children and I forgive him too.
Help me to be in peace with your compassion and without judgement.
I have a strong Faith on you My Lord, my Heavenly Father. Guide, protect and bless us! Please reward me by reunite me with my husband Robert when your Glory Kingdom comes.
We are very thankful for your eternal love and blessings, in the name of Yeshua HaMashiach, Malkeinu. Amen. Y. Zaza
Michael G. Forsting – written by his Mom and Dad
Mikey grew up the small town of Steeleville, Illinois. As a child he was always running off with his brother’s Geoffrey and Joshua to play in the woods with Airsoft guns. He loved nothing more than to go out and play “Army” with his brothers. All three of them dreamed of nothing more than being a “Soldier” like their Dad was. They would do this all of the time, sometimes until well after dark. Mikey was inseparable from his two brothers. They did almost everything together.
Often times when one of them would do something to get into trouble you just knew that the other two were involved somehow. I remember one specific instance when Mikey wrote all three of their names on his bedroom door (on the outside where it was obvious), when I asked Mikey who wrote the names on there he just looked at me straight faced and said the Geoffrey did it. Mind you Geoffrey was way to young to write his name yet, and the writing was up far enough on the door that Geoffrey couldn’t have possibly have written it on there. It took all that I had not to laugh when he told me that since I was the one trying to discipline him.
He also loved laying around in his room just listening to music. His life seemed to revolve around his brothers and music. When he was around 14 years old we went out and let Mikey pick out a guitar. Over a period of about 6 months he had taught himself how to play some of his favorite songs on it. He learned how to play Metallica, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and Ozzy Osbourne. He was amazing on that old guitar.
Mikey got married and had 2 children with his wife. Kale and Korie. Mikey was a wonderful father to his kids. He would play with them on the floor for hours. He enjoyed every part of being a Dad to our Grandchildren. He loved cooking for them and had a blast feeding them. He had grown into the man that I had always hoped he would become.
Mikey was in the Illinois National Guard followed soon by his brother Geoffrey.
Mikey got deployed to Afghanistan while Geoffrey was still in training. They were so happy to be together serving in the Military. It was all that they had dreamed of.
Right after Mikey’s youngest brother Joshua graduated high school, he went into the Army as an Active Duty Soldier following in his brothers footsteps. Joshua enlisted active duty to become an EOD Tech. Joshua was home for leave when we found out that Mikey had taken his life. It crushed us all, especially hard on his brothers.
After the funeral Joshua went back to complete his training. During the remainder of his year long training Joshua would often talk to Mikey asking him for help with his classes. Geoffrey would also talk to Mikey when he had hard times looking for guidance. I believe that they are all three still linked together in a way that only brothers could understand.
Mikey is now and will forever be missed by all of us. He followed as a 4th generation Soldier (his Great Grandfather served in WW2, his Grandpa served during Vietnam, and his Dad served in Operation Just Cause, and Desert Storm) proud to serve his country. It is not clear to any of us why Mikey took his life. He was such a wonderful son and father. We all wish that anyone going through what Mikey was could understand that we are all here to help through the times that seem like you can’t make it. The world is a better place with you in it.
Justin Johnson – written by his wife Kimberly
I meet my husband when we were serving in the Army together. Justin served 6 years. We met during a deployment overseas. We have been together for 9 years. We have three beautiful daughters aged 7, 6 and 3.
Justin got out of the Army so that he could attend Kelley school of business at IU (Indiana University). He enjoyed spending time with friends and family.
We spent a lot of time outdoors hiking, camping, and fishing. He was always smiling and making jokes. He will be greatly missed, especially by his girls and me. We love and miss him everyday.