“They’re having a little girl and she’s never going to know her daddy.”
“They’re having a little girl and she’s never going to know her daddy.” ……”It’s unbelievable. We identified him by his tattoos. We don’t know what he looked like. We don’t know what happened exactly. We don’t know if it was instant or if….we don’t know,” said Alicia Weese, victims sister.
These are a few of the heartfelt comments made by Aubrey Weese’s sister after Aubrey was killed by an Amtrak passenger train over the Labor Day holiday. These are thoughts, fears, and questions shared by all who knew Aubrey.
“I know he had his music loud in his ear because when he was in Iraq, his striker, got blown up. So, in his left ear he couldn’t hear as well.”
I think we were all plagued by questions we were afraid to voice. Knowing Aubrey, we couldn’t believe he deliberately walked into the path of that train. But public comments on blogs, news sites, and by people we knew or encountered sometimes kindly, sometimes not so kindly, voiced what I think all of us who knew and loved him feared.
We all noticed the changes in Aubrey. We all tried in our own way to be there for him. Deep inside us all, besides the question of “Why couldn’t he feel the track vibrations even if he couldn’t hear the train?” mingled the questions, “Did we miss a sign?” or “Did we let Aubrey down in some way?” He and I talked on several occasions about getting help at the VA. But, Aubrey always reassured me, and I am sure his other friends and family, he would take care of himself. He would get help if he needed it. He just needed some time first. He wasn’t ready to talk about “it all yet! I promise!”
“Aubrey Weese was honorably discharged from the army suffering from post traumatic stress disorder. But the family says he was getting help. Just married six months ago, they say Weese would’ve turned 26 next month.”
I think our fears and questions are all the normal reactions on the part of friends and loved ones when someone dies, especially in such a tragic and horrible way! There is an overwhelming sense of helplessness and guilt (?). We find it hard to accept their loss. We want everything to go back to the way it was. We want to know that they knew we loved them. That we will miss them. We ask why? Where was God? Why did He let this happen?
Aubrey was walking on the tracks to get his thoughts together. He had his earphones on to listen to his music, to block out everything around him for a while, to enjoy the feeling of walking down the tracks to a destination in his mind of solitude and peace. He saw an approaching train, so he moved to the other set of parallel tracks and continued to walk, safely out of the path of the oncoming train. Because the approaching train made vibrations on both tracks and made so much noise, he never knew that another train was approaching him from behind! He never gave any visible sign that he was aware of any imminent danger. Despite all attempts by the train operator to warn Aubrey, he never heard the warnings.
The tragic death of Aubrey Weese, another of our heroic veterans who served in Iraq or Afghanistan, serves as a reminder to us all life is precious and short. As loved ones, family and friends, we worry about them all the time they are deployed, especially in armed conflict. We tell ourselves that they will be OK if they can only make it back safely. we worry about the consequences of their service. Will they be the lucky one who comes home and doesn’t have or develop PTSD? But, there are never any guarantees in life.
Aubrey was among a growing list of veterans who returned home plagued by PTSD. I am sure he wasn’t alone in his feelings of not wanting to talk about the war when he first came home. But, he was past that point and getting the help he needed. None of ever thought that he would be any thing but safe once he was home out of harm’s way. Unfortunately, Aubrey is not the only returning veteran who survived the war only to tragically die in the “safety” of home! Vehicular accidents, domestic situations, being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and suicide has unfortunately taken away far too many of our returning veterans. It doesn’t help to try to explain events away as the tragic unfairness of life. We already know this is true. I suppose the only recourse any of us has is to realize the value of life as we live it everyday and that we need to do all we can to make the most of the time we have. We need to let each other know more often that we love each other. We need to live each day the best we can. We need to make our memories with as many good ones as we can and treasure them because we never know when fate will step in and forever alter our world.
As a people, as a nation, we especially need to assure that all our returning veterans get all the help they need so that their lives can be filled with the same quality of life we want for ourselves.
Do I feel better knowing the circumstances of Aubrey’s death. Yes and no! Truthfully, I wonder if I am being selfish in that I hated the feelings of guilt that plagued me when I voiced my fears to myself that maybe Aubrey “chose” to leave us. I felt as if I were betraying him and showing a lack of trust in him. I suppose this too is normal.
I will miss Aubrey. I will grieve for him and his family. Though his was a short life, he lived it well with dignity. Good-bye my friend. Be at peace!
- PTSD Programs for Families (vabenefitblog.com)
- More About Female Veterans: fighting an invisible injury (steinink.wordpress.com)