John was being treated at Alvin C York VA for PTSD, depression, anxiety and substance abuse. He was kicked out for being late for medication. He hung himself on the VA campus, approximately 22 hours later, the day before Thanksgiving.
John was wanting to re-enlist with his unit. He was also studying to become a counselor in the S.M.A.R.T. Recovery program, while at the VA.
“I’ve come to see the people I know & love, & strangers alike, as children. I pity, empathize & sincerely feel compassion for us all. The way we pain each other senselessly, never realizing how fragile we really are. I know for certain though, in all of us, that spark of the Devine, that hope we all must learn to nourish in each other. It’s far too easy to tear someone down… we must learn to empower & support each other selflessly.” John Toombs 11/23/2016 (shared by David, John’s dad: ‘These are John’s words that he asked me to read at his funeral, from his goodbye letter to me’).
There is a bill before Congress, H.R.1341 – To designate the Mental Health Residential Rehabilitation Treatment Facility Expansion of the Department of Veterans Affairs Alvin C. York Medical Center in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, as the “Sergeant John Toombs Residential Rehabilitation Treatment Facility”. This is the location where John took his life.
News article 1:
“Study shows drug commonly prescribed to veterans could be making suicidal thoughts worse”
Fox News Nashville by Kathleen Jacob (February 18th 2019)
Sgt. John Toombs took a video of himself on an early November morning in 2016.
“I went to the VA for help and they opened up a Pandora’s box inside me and just kicked me out the door,” Toombs said in the video.
The day before, he said the VA kicked him out of a residential drug treatment program for being late to take his medicine.
“I came for help and they threw me out like a stray dog in the rain,” Toombs said in the video.
Just moments after recording the video, he hung himself from a construction site on the Murfreesboro VA campus.
Now his dad is speaking out about his son’s struggle leading up to his death.
“People don’t realize that it’s something you just don’t get over,” his dad, David Toombs said.
David Toombs thinks about his son every moment of every day.
“He was extremely smart, and a quick, dry, sense of humor, that would catch you off guard so fast and then he’d answer you so fast,” David said.
Sgt. Toombs served as the man riding on the back of a convoy in Afghanistan, eyes peeled, looking for suicide bombers or anyone else who posed a threat to his team. His dad says, when he came back home, things were good for a couple years, but when he decided not to reenlist, it became harder and harder to recognize his son.
“He just wasn’t the same person,” David said. “He said for him, the main thing was being helpless and hopeless. If he was in a position that felt helpless and hopeless that’s when it kicked in the worst.”
His dad said getting kicked out of the drug rehab program was one of those helpless and hopeless times.
At the time of his death, Sgt. Toombs had six medications in his system that listed suicidal thoughts as a side effect. It’s something his father thinks is a rampant problem in the VA.
“They’re over medicated and they’re dealing with an over complicated system and they just give up at some point,” David said.
News Article 2
A Vet’s Suicide Pushes The VA To Do Better NPR WAMU
Quil Lawrence Veterans Correspondent
August 28, 2018
John took the job after leaving the Army, but he couldn’t leave his memories of Afghanistan behind so easily. He developed a drug problem that landed him in the residential treatment program at the Murfreesboro Veterans Affairs center.
It’s meant to be an intensive therapeutic atmosphere, but it also demands strict discipline, and on the morning of Nov. 22, 2016, John was abruptly kicked out for being late to take his medications.
Later that day, his father came to pick him up.
“I said, ‘Come on John, let’s go, I don’t want to leave you out here,’ ” David Toombs recalls. But the 32-year-old didn’t want to leave.
“He said, ‘I’m gonna be OK. I’m gonna sleep in the emergency room, go see the patients’ advocate and the director in the morning, and try to get back in the program,’ ” Toombs recalls.
John loitered around the campus all night. His father believes he went to the emergency room and was turned away; the Department of Veterans Affairs denies it. Sometime before dawn, John recorded a video on his phone.
“When I asked for help, they opened up a Pandora’s box inside of me and just kicked me out the door,” Toombs said, “that’s how they treat veterans ’round here.”
In the message, he thanks the people who did help.
“Some of you I love more than the whole wide world,” he says and it ends.
Then John went to a construction site on the campus and hanged himself.
Final Rest: Murfreesboro, TN
#22TooMany #OurHeroes are #NeverForgotten