Updated: Aug 13, 2019
They say there are two guarantees in life - death and taxes. In the military and afterward, things have seemingly skewed to a lot less taxes in comparison.
Last night I found out that one of my soldiers (from my early days in the Army) was recently fighting his own battle - one that was too much to overcome and he took his own life... He is the fourth person I've known from my time in the service who has lost that fight - the second so far this year. That 22 a day stat no longer seems that far fetched.
I don't know why, but I had this gut feeling that I needed to get ahold of him recently. We hadn't spoken in years. A few days ago, I tried to reconnect through Facebook after I couldn't find any other contact info. For whatever reason, I just left it at that and didn't even think to ask around. Damn it, damn it, DAMN IT!
It destroys me to know that you went through that. I'm so, SO sorry I couldn't be there for you, brother.... I feel like I've failed you as a leader.
For those that didn't know him, Adam Chumley was a really great dude and cared a lot for those who were in his circle. He was, however, the kind of guy who just couldn't be contained. I stood in front of "the man" on his behalf on more than a few occasions because, as some of you many know, he was not a great soldier. The rigidity just wasn't for him.
But like I said, he cared deeply about his team and those around him. He would go the extra mile for his buddies. He was a joker and like to do crazy stuff to get others to laugh and was an exceptionally hard worker -- even when he was carrying out extra duty work. I remember him throwing on his helmet one time so he could continue to work outside in a crazy hail storm. That was Chumley.
He certainly made our time in Iraq more than memorable.
Years later - nearly ten years after I left that unit, and long after I last seen him - he showed up again out of nowhere. It was 2013, and I had been a civilian again for a while, and Liz and I were getting married in Monroe, WA.
Chumley and his then girlfriend now wife, Eva drove all the way from Mississippi for the ceremony. A 40-hour plus drive, one way, for a one-hour ceremony. I was completely floored when I saw him walk in with his long hair and ZZ-Top looking beard (see below). I can't even begin to say how honored I was that he came all that way. It was really great seeing him and meeting Eva. "Any Mission, Anywhere." That was the motto from our unit, and he lived it.
So to say I'm incredibly saddened by this news couldn't be understated more. Crushed is probably a better word.
I know what it's like to find yourself in a hopeless and helpless situation... where the world feels dark and the walls are caving in all around you. And you don't know why you feel this way.
It's hard to breath, let alone reach out for help.
Sometimes there just isn't enough strength. Sometimes you just don't want to be a burden or show weakness. I've been there too. It crushes me to know that he was there and couldn't escape.
This is why it's important if you see a friend who's hurting or just not their normal selves, to reach out to them and just see how they're doing. It doesn't take much. Just an innocent conversation could be the one that pulls them back from the brink.
Know that if any of you find yourself in your darkest hour, there are people who have been there and care about you. You are not alone in this. Push through (you can do it!) and call me. Call someone. Call anyone.
The world is going to be a much different place without you, Adam Chumley.
Until Valhalla, my friend.
- And Eva, not sure if you'll ever even see this, but know that you are just as much of his Army family that he was. We are here for you if you need anything. I am so incredibly sorry for your loss.