SFC Randy Abrams, a 3rd tour returning Combat Solider, died March 20, 2009. He was a returning Combat Soldier who did not receive the help he needed and tragically died because of it.
Randy died by suicide during a PTSD flashback during the night in his bed at home. He put a .45 caliber handgun to his head and pulled the trigger.
Hello, I am Roxann Abrams, Randy’s mother. Thank you for taking the time to read my son’s story. I write this biography celebrating his life and mourning his death.SFC Randy Abrams was a real person, with a real family and this really happened in 2009, and is STILL happening in 2012. The best way I can honor my son is to help his Brothers, and out of that Operation: I.V. is born to provide effective treatments and support for our Iraq and Afghanistan Combat Veterans.
Randy is my oldest son, and still today is a very integral part of our family. As his mother, I can tell you the pain of losing a child is indescribable. And the senselessness of his death makes the pain worse. This is an emotional wound that for me will never heal. I will never “get over it” or “get past it”. The day my son died I lost a part of myself that I will never get back, literally a part of me died that day too. As time goes on, and only with the help of Jesus Christ, I am only learning how to cope.
Randy’s senseless death has caused immeasurable pain to me, and many others also. His brother Daniel, his sister Lisa, his niece, nephews and sister-in-law, countless friends and the list goes on. Also included in this sea of pain, are Randy’s Battle Buddy’s – his soldier’s, the ones that worked for him and then there are his friends. They all suffer from survivors guilt from his suicide on top of their own serious PTSD!
Randy was an amazing Son, Brother and Uncle. Perfect? No, not by any means – we teased him about being controlling – a necessary trait for being a good Military leader! And he was a good one – in addition, he was a very giving human being, that is why he chose the Military as his career – because he wanted to protect the freedoms we have in this country!
From the time he was 8 years old all he ever wanted to do was be a Marine. The Marine Corp recruited him directly out of high school ROTC, Arlington High School in Riverside, Ca. He had a very successful 6 year career in the Marines. Deciding to pursue another career path he honorably discharged at the end of his enlistment. Two years later he then realized the Military was his passion. He joined the Army.
Randy deployed to Iraq in early 2003, as was part of the 3rd ID out of Fort Stewart, Ga – these were the ground forces who were the first troops in at the onset of the Iraq war, March 20, 2003.
During his first days in Iraq Randy was on one of the Baghdad entrance bridges engaged in a 30 hour firefight! Those bridges were named Curly, Moe, and Larry … Randy was stuck on that middle bridge, Moe. Can you imagine having people trying to kill you for over 30 hours?? This is the reality of the types of situations these soldiers at war are in, multiple times over …. in addition, they watch their buddies get blown up and die and additionally they have to kill other people!! These are the realities of war. This is what Post Traumatic Stress comes from – being in a life threatening situation or witnessing one – and it is magnified with each successive event. Most of the time Combat PTSD does not show itself until the solider has returned to a safer environment like coming home. That is what tragically ended the life of my son, SFC Randy Abrams.
During Randy’s time of service in the Army he was a sniper and a weapons trainer. By the time he returned to the US in June of 2008, he had personally trained over half of the Iraq Army soldiers on their weapons! He was a sniper also – Randy was an Abrams (the name of a Military tank) that sat on the back of a Bradley (another military tank). He was a force to be reckoned with all by himself!
Randy’s last months …. indications of PTSD?
Summer 2008 – His return from his 3rd tour
Upon his return in June he bought himself a Harley. His reward to himself for a job well done!! In August of 2008 he rode across the country from GA to CA to visit his family and friends. The photo of him with his bike you see on this page was taken when he arrived in Santa Barbara, Ca.
He had made a decision to pursue his second love, motorcycles, after completing his Military career. He was excited about the decision he had made to become a Harley mechanic and eventually own his own Harley shop. He talked about it practically non stop during that visit!
Randy then rode up to San Francisco to see friends and returned to Ft Stewart, GA after a month long road trip Sept 2008.
Randy got the news he had been selected as a Drill Sgt Instructor upon his return from his trip to Ca. He was going to Drill Sgt school in February 2009. This is an honor that less than 10% of the military enjoys. It is an elite assignment. He never showed any outward signs to anyone (except one friend) until his very last day that he was having any difficulty at all. All appearances were that he was just fine.
I later found out later, that Randy began to have occasional flashbacks, in October 2008. Those flashbacks came and went over the next several months. He told only one friend, in the strictest confidence, because in the Military at that time and still today it is considered weak and unmanly among the men of the military to get mental health help of any kind.
The reality is that the social and professional climates of the military were then and still are, of that mind set that it is a bad thing to seek mental health help and they (the returning soldiers) should be able to handle it on their own! This must change!!
Christmas/New Years 2008-2009
Randy came home for Christmas 2008. We had a wonderful Christmas, thank God for lots of family time and really good memories. He took his brother Daniel to a USC game on New Years Day. It was the last time Daniel saw his brother. On January 2, 2009 I took my son to the airport – I hugged him, kissed him, and told him I loved him … his last words my son said to me in person were “I love you too Mom”. When I spoke to him later in the month of January, he seemed a little edgy but that wasn’t out of the ordinary and did not strike me as anything to worry about. He did tell me he was leaving February 18 to go to Drill Sgt School and he was not happy about it. He did tell me he would be out of school late April – early May and would probably take leave and come home sometime late May-June as one of his CA friends’ wives was giving birth about then and he wanted to see their baby.
February 17, 2009 Randy’s last Day
I called Randy that day late morning PST making it early afternoon EST. Got his voice mail, left him a message “Hi Randy, its Mom, call me back, I love you!” ……. he called me back several hours later – As soon as he said hello I knew something was very wrong! I said to him “Randy you don’t sound good, what’s wrong?” he replied “Nothing Mom” …. I said “That’s not true, what’s wrong??” again he said nothing …. then changed the subject. We had a 10 minute or so conversation ending in ” I love you Randy — I love you too Mom”. He was supposed to be off to Drill Sgt School the next day.
(I know this is confusing and doesn’t add up yet, but keep reading, it will)
I called him 2 weeks later .. the phone went straight to voice mail, or so I thought … not uncommon if he was out in the field on a training mission.
March 14 – Randy’s Birthday
I called him and got a weird recording, not his voice mail. ..My other kids and I are calling each other that day – “Have you talked to Randy?” Everyone said no and we all got that same weird recording, assuming he was out in the field.
March 19 – I got the call – I woke up to 3 messages on my cell phone voice mail .. 1 from Randy’s landlord, 1 from Randy’s unit and 1 from his friend. His Lieutenant asked me if I had seen Randy or talked to him in the last few days. I said “No”, then they told me he had never shown up for Drill Sgt School February 18 – WHAT?? Over a month ago and you are just now calling???? They said they had been to his house and he wasn’t there, I asked if his Harley and or his car were at his house – he said yes … I said “If his bike and his car are still in the driveway then somebody did something to him, or he did something to himself.” I told the officer what tattoo’s Randy had and where they were on his body. I knew then he was dead. My son wasn’t the kind of person to not show up to something, especially work and just not call, that just wasn’t Randy! I knew right then, in my heart, he was dead. Later that day I got a call from the Army telling me Officers were coming to my house to talk to me. Now there was no denying he was dead. He had always told me “No news is good news, if they ever call you and tell you they are coming to the house to talk to you, that means I’m dead.” At that moment I dropped to the floor and cried inconsolably. Sometime later, I don’t know how long of a time it was, I realized I had to tell my other two children their brother was dead. You see, not only did the Military, in Randy’s case the Army, drop the ball when it came to getting him the proper help upon his return from Combat, they dropped the ball across the board.
My son was dead by suicide in his home for 33 days before the Army discovered his body! The only reason the Army went to Randy’s house that day is because his landlord called his commanding officer because he hadn’t paid his rent for March!!
How can that happen? How can the Army not know where an ACTIVE DUTY Sergeant First Class slated for Drill Sgt School is for 33 days??????? It’s been 3 years and I’ve never gotten an acceptable answer from the Army. When he didn’t show up for Drill Sgt School apparently no one from the school notified his Commanding officer that he did not report for duty, or so they say. Upon getting that call from Randy’s landlord members of his unit went to his house. Seeing his car outside they let themselves in with the landlord and upon entry discovered his body and called police.
When the police entered Randy’s house that day they discovered he had clothes in the washer and dryer, a duffel bag 3/4 packed to go to school in the living room, $ 75.00 in his wallet along with a bank withdraw and receipt for gas. He had dropped his clothes on the floor and gotten in to bed … had the TV remote, computer and ashtray on the bed as if he had been watching TV and gone to sleep. He still had the gun in his hand, up against his head and had been deceased for 4-5 WEEKS!!
….. please keep reading ……..
Retrieving his body from Fort Stewart was terrifying but something I had to do. I flew back with Randy’s sister, Lisa my youngest child, and together, along with Randy’s best friend brought Randy home for a full honors Military funeral held on April 2, 2009. Randy is buried in the Riverside National Cemetery, Riverside CA.
During my trip to Fort Stewart I learned that one of Randy’s friends requested urgently to speak to me privately. This is when I learned that Randy had been having PTSD flashbacks for several months. In January, after being with his family, those flashbacks got worse …. he told one of his friends that he had woken up several times with his gun in his hand and was having flashbacks both when he was awake and asleep. His friend was so concerned about Randy he actually took Randy’s hand guns from him for several weeks. Then he gave those guns back and several weeks later Randy shot himself. Why didn’t his friend tell anyone? He couldn’t -military code of silence. I know Military Commanding Officers will deny this but its true … its STILL true ….Why didn’t Randy say anything? Same code ….Why did Randy die?? .. Stigma of getting help and there are numerous other Vets that aren’t getting adequate help today, in 2012.
I became an amateur private investigator of my son’s death. I personally put the pieces together of his last day. I then hired a professional private investigator to get whole truth of his last months and last day. As Randy’s mother, I had to know what really happened to my son! Because of that professional private investigation I fully understand that my son died because he did not get the help he needed and deserved when he came home.
Randy’s last hours ( Feb 17)
He had gone to the bank ATM about noon, out to eat at McDonald’s just after that and then on to the gas station to put gas in his car. He had 7 messages on his cell phone, one of those was from me, his mother. I am the only person he called back … I was the last person he talked to. That night he died.
Operation IV is created in Randy’s memory to help prevent what happened to my son from happening to more Combat Vets! In summation, 4 months after Randy’s return from his 3rd Iraq deployment he began having PTSD flashbacks that progressively worsened until he couldn’t take it anymore, that’s when he took his own life. If he had received proper treatment for PTSD and TBI upon his return he would still be alive today. But he didn’t – because of the Military’s “suck it up” environment and the knowledge that if he did get mental health help it would ruin his otherwise spotless Military record. Unfortunately there is nothing I can do to bring my son back and my heart will forever be broken because of his senseless death.
What I can do is help other soldiers to get the proper treatment upon their return and so they can a different ending to their deployment experiences. I am Committed to a Successful Transition for our Combat Veterans through Operation: I.V.