Military suicides continue to climb. It’s a deadly trend that Pentagon officials say is frustrating and they are struggling to counter. Margi Fritz of Columbus, the mother of two Army veterans, talked to her friend, Claire Roderick, about military suicide awareness.
Margi Fritz (MF): I got married at twenty-two, twenty-one, I'm sorry, and my ex-husband was in the military at the time. When I found out that I was pregnant, I was just happy. I always wanted kids. I have a big family. So, I was excited, I was happy. So, Levi was my … He wanted to join the Army when he was eight. He wanted to be an Army man. And then my middle kid, Caleb, they ended up joining the Army together. It's not something that I wanted for my children, this was in 2012, in light of the fact that we were in the middle of a very, very long war. I didn't want my kids to do that. So, two kids off, and my marriage fell apart. So that ended a twenty-five-year marriage. It was very difficult. We didn't tell the kids until they came home at Christmas time. And then, I don't know if you have a question, or if you want me to elaborate on what's going on with my Army children.
Claire Roderick (CR): Currently? The update, yeah...
MF: So, this will be the hard part.
CR: ...and we don't have to if you don't want to.
MF: No, that's fine. So, as you are aware, twenty-two veterans commit suicide every day on average, and it's a tragedy. And, unfortunately, my oldest son got out of the army August of 2018 and he killed himself November 01 of 2018. It was a very hard thing. I found him. And we still struggle. But, there's a but, there's always a but, my son was a light in this world of darkness, and he made friends everywhere you went. It's a hard pill to swallow. But, as a lesson, you can take that light, you can take that memory of Levi, and then you can be better for people.
CR: Well, I think we were all just heartbroken, and in awe of your ability to get up and articulate. I have never been to a service where people spoke so openly about the circumstances.
MF: One of the things that I said from the very beginning was I would not allow somebody to hush it, or shame it, because if twenty-two people died of anything a day, something would get done. And out of all of the suicides in the United States, the military make up 20 percent of them. So, when people are like, oh, he passed, I make sure that I say, no, he committed suicide and it is an epidemic in our country.
CR: Just we are in awe of your strength and courage, and you are becoming a light for others who need strength and help during this time.
MF: Thank you.
Margi Fritz and Claire Roderick's conversation took place at WYSO as part of StoryCorps' Military Voices Initiative which visited the Miami Valley last summer. Veterans’ Voices on WYSO is presented by Wright-Patt Credit Union with additional support from CareSource. This story was edited by Will Davis and created at the Eichelberger Center for Community Voices at WYSO.