On January 20th, 2015, my son took his life. The demons of war finally won their battle. He had been a Gift of Life donor since the age of 16. This bequest was honored on the 29th of January. His organs went to many in need of hope. Again, not only was my son a hero serving his country but also to the people and their families who received these organs. Rest in peace, son!
Remembering Specialist 4 Francis J. Graves III (Stoney) who passed away on Jan.29-2015 surrounded by his loving family. He was born in Wilmington Delaware October 13, 1982. He enlisted in the Delaware Army National Guard and served with the 153rd Military Police Battalion. Not long after his training, his unit was deployed overseas for combat duty in Operation Iraqi Freedom. After his one year tour he returned to Delaware.
My son was a typical boy growing up in the country. He was our little hardhead and had more dents and scrapes than a lot of people I know. He grew into the nickname we gave him – Stoney – because my name was Rocky so Stoney it would be. He loved sports growing up and became a wrestler in high school and went on be very good at it. After high school he had the yearning to become a police officer or maybe even a FBI agent so he enlisted into the army and became a M.P.
After his deployment for Iraqi Freedom he returned home and resumed his guard duties. My boy and me had quite a relationship – not only working for me but we went on building houses and renovated many more. My son could do anything with his hands and mind; he was very talented but don’t give him a paint brush. He was one sloppy painter! He was a prankster and anyone who knew him had a joke or two played on them.
There is no doubt his fellow troops loved him for this and knew if the shit hit the fan they would want him on their side, manning the machine gun. He was all about that! Stoney had a lot of ups and downs in his life. The more these tribulations happened the harder it got for him to see life getting any brighter. My boy had never been a quitter but I believe the PTSD was becoming overwhelming at that point for him. My wife and I had been taking him to the V.A. Hospital here in Delaware for all the issues vets bring home with them from war. Pretty much 3 days a week he was seeing doctors and counselors at Behavior Health. Then to top it off he acquired an addiction problem which sometimes goes hand in hand with PTSD. These are some of the diagnosis from doctors he was given: Poly substance abuse, Depression Anxiety Disorder, Dysomnia (a form of Insomnia), Anti-Social Personality Disorder, PTSD Nightmares.
This is the kicker – Flag Category1 High Risk for Suicide and later on we would find out he had attempted suicide in November but was unsuccessful with the drug Ambien and had taken 17 pills. He had been to Coatesville V.A. hospital, Perry Point V.A. hospital, Rockford Center for extended periods numerous times. On December 29, 2014 I had taken him down to Perry Point V.A. hospital for a 21 day treatment stay.
He was released Jan.20th 2015 at 1030am with no phone call from him or a courtesy call from the hospital. All along we had been involved with his care and the hospital was aware of this. At about 430pm that evening my wife and I received a call from the Christiana Hospital telling us we needed to get to the hospital right away. All the rest is our worst nightmare….Stoney had OD’d on opiates. My son had taken his life. We would find this out later when we found a 4 page letter explaining his deep feelings. He stated in his letter: “I don’t know how these letters supposed to go. I have not given it much thought on how I would do this. To summarize what I am about to do – I want to emphasize these important points: 1. I love my family. I am sorry for what I am about to do. I am sorry for the pain I have caused. 2.I am extremely unhappy with my life. My relationship with my family is invaluable and I hold that above anything else. 3. I am not drunk high or out of my mind. I’ve given this a lot of thought. Probably over a year or more. I’ve been unhappy for a long time. So that’s that. I don’t want this letter to end. I know that once it does I have to actually do it. I’m scared. I realize what I am about to do is contradictory to my love for my family. But I think of this as pulling a tooth with no Novocaine. Yes it’s going to hurt like a mother! But the toothache will be gone and eventually you won’t even miss it. Wish you all a good life – I will miss you guys! Love Stoney”
As you can see the demons were relentless with my boy and he gave in to this nasty thing we call PTSD. It is so sad we lose so many of our veterans each and every day. My wife and I at first thought how selfish he was to do what he did but after thinking back we realized how sad a state he had been in for a long time. He had fought a hard battle, but we pray now that he is finally safe and sound. My son died on his own battlefield. He fought against adversaries that were as real to him as his casket is to us. We shall remember not his death but his daily victories gained through his kindness and thoughtfulness. We shall remember not the years we thought he had left but the intensity with which he lived the years that he had. Our son, after 9 days on life support, went to be with the Lord. He was a Gift of Life donor. We granted his wishes and his organs went to many family’s loved ones who needed them to survive. Not only did my son serve his country in time of need, he became a hero for all the families who benefited from his good heart and thoughtfulness. Way to go big guy – May you rest in peace, my son!!!! Please let us learn that we all are in this together: doctors, counselors, and the families to make this fight against PTSD more successful. #22toomany #OurHeroes are #NeverForgotten