One Wife’s Burden

CAUTION: Viewer discretion advised, strong emotional content. The content of the video below may not be appropriate for some viewers. Video illustrates the emotional pain of an Army widow as she recounts her husband’s service, struggles to get help, and his subsequent suicide.

Jared Hagemann’s Hell

Army Ranger Suffered the Psychiatric Strains of Eight Deployments to the Killing Fields; Now, After His Suicide, His Widow Fights For Others in His Memory

by Nina Shapiro
Seattle Weekly, Nov, 9 2011

Ashley Joppa-Hagemann arrives at a coffeehouse outside the gates of Joint Base Lewis-McChord carrying a toddler. With red streaks in her dark hair, two piercings below her lip, and an outfit of jeans, a T-shirt, and flip-flops, the 25-year-old looks impossibly young for the role she has recently assumed: widow.

Ashley is here for a late-September press conference about the “base on the brink,” as the gathered activists call it. Eleven soldiers stationed at JBLM have died in presumed suicides since the beginning of the year—all evidence, they say, that the military, despite its professed desire to stop the stateside carnage that is afflicting its ranks, isn’t serious about the problem.

Ashley Joppa-Hagemann, Army widow fights to help other military families don't suffer the pain of losing their soldier to suicide.

There are veterans on the panel, including one with a moving story to tell about his post-battle mental-health problems. But on this September morning, Ashley’s story holds the emotional center of the room.

On June 28, her husband, an Army Ranger named Jared Hagemann, was found lying in the bushes in a JBLM training area, a few feet away from his truck. Jared was dead, with a bullet wound to the head. And while the military hasn’t ruled the death a suicide yet—two investigations are still underway—his wife says she is certain that he killed himself. She’s also certain about who is to blame.

“The military did not take care of my husband,” Ashley tells the assembled crowd, which includes reporters from KOMO-TV, KUOW, and the Los Angeles Times. Commanders “don’t listen to the soldiers. They are not there for the soldiers. They are merely there to push these men to war.”

As Ashley recounts, her husband said again and again that he was having problems, and couldn’t face another deployment. By her reckoning, he had already served a staggering eight tours overseas, and was scheduled for another in August.

Yet, she says, “the military pretty much told him he couldn’t leave.” They didn’t even allow him to get help. “That’s just an excuse to get out of work,” she says his commanders told him. If he wanted counseling, he’d have to do it on his own time.

“As a widow, it is my goal to make sure another family doesn’t have to go through this,” she continues before trailing off and starting again with a quiver in her voice. “Every day is a struggle now for me. But now I don’t have my husband to help me.”

The room goes quiet. One of the veterans on the panel seems to fight back tears. He goes on to cite Jared as a prime example of military neglect, and of its policy of returning traumatized soldiers to the battlefield, not once but repeatedly.

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