After A Marine's Suicide, A Family Recalls Missed Red Flags

Play associated audio

Last year, more U.S. service members took their own lives than died in combat. And despite the drawdown of troops from Afghanistan, the pullout in Iraq, and hundreds of new programs designed to help troubled servicemen and women, the number of suicides continues to rise.

Nicholas Rodriguez is one such young man. Military service was practically a foregone conclusion for Nick. His family's history in the armed forces stretches back to the Revolutionary War. His grandfather fought in World War II, his father was a Marine and his stepfather's brother died while on active duty in Afghanistan.

So when Nick joined the Marines at 21, he felt he was honoring both his country and his family. He "wanted to go and help the world in some way," explains his stepfather, Michael Geiger.

Nick left for Afghanistan in 2010. His mother, Anna Rodriguez, was relieved when he returned from combat by year's end. But when Nick came home to Whitehall, Pa., for Christmas, "there were cracks and I started to see them," Anna says. Nick was "jumpy" and "on guard," she says. "I was confused, 'cause my son was hurting and I didn't know what to do."

Nick returned to Camp Pendleton in California in early January 2011. He had headaches. He was troubled by memories. Less than two months later, he took his own life.

"In hindsight now, I look back and think, 'Well, these were all red flags that were going up and we never saw them," Michael says. "We didn't know they were red flags."

Before Nick's death, Anna and Michael say, they had never heard of post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. By sharing Nick's story, they hope families of other servicemen and women can learn to read the signs that they could not — and can find resources to help.

"Coming Home: Nick's Story," was produced by Elizabeth Meister and Dan Collison of Long Haul Productions.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

'Kids Love To Be Scared': Louis Sachar On Balancing Fun And Fear

The award-winning author of Holes has just published a new novel for young readers, called Fuzzy Mud. It mixes middle-school social puzzles with a more sinister mystery: a rogue biotech threat.
NPR

Confronting A Shortage Of Eggs, Bakers Get Creative With Replacements

Eggs are becoming more expensive and scarce recently because so many chickens have died from avian flu. So bakers, in particular, are looking for cheaper ingredients that can work just as well.
NPR

Jon Stewart's Private White House Meetings

Comedian Jon Stewart was called to the White House on at least two occasions for private meetings with President Obama, according to Politico. NPR's Arun Rath speaks with reporter Darren Samuelsohn.
NPR

An App Tells Painful Stories Of Slaves At Monticello's Mulberry Row

A new app uses geolocation to bring to life a lesser-known section of Thomas Jefferson's Virginia estate — Mulberry Row, which was the bustling enclave of skilled slaves who worked at Monticello.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.