Friday, April 15, 2011

Church Bells Sing Suicide

The songbird singing on my windowsill will come and pass to be replaced by another and I will never notice. The old bird will come to rest in a shrub to be devoured by the cat, or maybe on a crowded sidewalk to be stepped over by the busy people of the day and I will have forgotten his song. Corporal Hunt killed himself two weeks ago in his Texas apartment. I didn’t know him but I could feel a lonely connection in deeper parts of my heart, and his story that made CNN headlines could not be shaken out of my head so I clocked out early today to write this blog.

Everything is so different out here and it has been years since my last deployment. After my first hospitalization for an attempted suicide I took a trip to Eastern France with my father to do some book research. We were on a Marine Corps battlefields of World War 1 tour hosted by former Commandant of The Marine Corps General Michael Hagee. Wandering through a well kept cemetery in the hamlet of Belleau France the General lit up and guided us to a tombstone. “Here it is!” He exclaimed. The General proceeded to tell us the story of Sergeant Streicher, who after his discharge in WW1 returned home to New York. He saved up enough money to take a trip to France and returned to the town of Belleau where he had fought. The former Sergeant asked the mayor if he would be allowed to live in Belleau to be close to his friends buried in a nearby military cemetery. The mayor granted his request, sometime later Sergeant Streicher wandered out to the wood line where he had fought and shot himself.

The Pentagon will not consider Corporal Hunt a war statistic, nor will they count the untold other number of post military service suicides. Sometimes I am walking through a parking lot checking the stubs to make sure that people paid for parking and I will think about all of these cars driven by all of these people and how they do not know that I served and that even if they did they would not care. I am a dead sparrow on the ground being stepped over and the weight of this thought is debilitating. I have sought help and sometimes I feel alright and other times I am walking through this never ending parking lot and it seems like I will never be able to leave. I always want everyone to know what my dead friends meant to me and what they should mean to their country but I don’t know how to say it.

Today I was walking through a cemetery in Eastern France. I was joined by Sergeant Streicher, Corporal Hunt and my dead great uncle Private Joesph Otto Turley who was killed on the last day of WW1, we were researching his story. Private Turley tugged my arm and walked me to the church where he had died. The French sky was grey and the old church was simple. Sergeant Streicher took hold of the rope of the bell and told me that when I didn’t know what to say it would be a good idea to ring the bell. The four of us took a hold of the rope and gave it a yank and it sang, “Another dead Marine!” The ringing thundered through the world, Corporal Hunt was smiling and we had known each other. We sang together, “Listen up you motherfuckers! Listen you passers by! Another dead Marine!” I shut my eyes and pulled the rope and when I awoke I was the only one ringing the bell.


  1. Well written. Chilling... morbid... a straight punch in the dick... keep writing.

  2. I just read this on IAVA. very moving. I very often think of those still silently serving here at home. War doesn't seem to let those who've been brave enough to see it face to face just stop serving after a deployment. keep on marine. thank you

  3. Jos. Otto Turley led me to you today while searching for family history. Despite the challenge of finding info on Otto, I kept at it. I think that this was why. What a thrill to find his photo here & learn that you've researched him! His life was brief, but he's not forgotten! Would love to know what you discovered about him! My great-grandfather Andrew Cole & Otto's great-grandfather Philip Cole were brothers.
    This entry in your blog is very moving regardless of the reference to your great uncle. Would be happy to share family info if you're ever interested.