Friends and family say Clay Hunt ‘tried everything’ to cope, but in the end couldn’t shake the trauma of war
Houston Chronicle, April 9, 2011
Marine veteran Clay Hunt had a tattoo on his arm that quoted Lord of the Rings author J.R.R. Tolkien: “Not all those who wander are lost.”
“I think he was a lot more philosophical about life than a lot of us are, but trying to search for some inner peace and the meaning of life, what was the most important thing,” said his father, Stacy Hunt.
His son’s quest ended last week when he took his own life at his Sugar Land apartment.
The 28-year-old had narrowly escaped death in Iraq four years ago, when a sniper’s bullet missed his head by inches. But he wrestled with post-traumatic stress disorder and survivor’s guilt over the deaths of four friends in his platoon who weren’t so lucky.
Video report on how Clay Hunt had to fight the VA for his benefits:
“Two were lost in Iraq, and the other two were killed in Afghanistan,” said his mother, Susan Selke. “When that last one in Afghanistan went down, it just undid him.”
In many ways, Hunt’s death is all too familiar: the haunted veteran consumed by a war he can’t stop fighting.
Suicides among Texans younger than 35 who served in the military jumped from 47 in 2006 to 66 in 2009 — an increase of 40 percent, according to state records.
The problem seems increasingly intractable. Efforts by the Pentagon and Department of Veterans Affairs to stop the alarming rise in military suicides nationwide through training and screening have had limited success.
‘He tried everything’
Hunt’s suicide was baffling to friends and family, but not because he hid his struggle or failed to get help. It baffled them because he faced it, head-on, leading from the front like any good Marine.
Hunt had become a poster boy for suicide prevention. He appeared in an award-winning public service campaign to encourage returning veterans who feel isolated to reach out to their peers for help.
“He tried everything,” said his best friend Jake Wood, a fellow Marine. “He tried the medication, he tried (humanitarian) service, he tried moving back closer to family. He tried everything under the sun, and he was fully self-aware. I think that’s what kind of surprised everybody. We thought that Clay was taking the steps to try and avoid something like this. It’s unfortunate that he wasn’t able to.”
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