September 04, 2013
Name: Charlie Sherpa
Previously embedded: with former unit in Afghanistan
Hometown: Boone, Iowa
Milblog: Red Bull Rising
"On average we are losing 25 of our best young people every day to a condition that could be eliminated with more effective care."
The family of a deceased Iowa "Red Bull" soldier hopes that publicizing
their story of loss to suicide will help other citizen-soldiers,
families, and friends seek help and resources. The 46-minute documentary
"Dillion" debuts on Kansas Public Television station KPTS, Wichita, on Sept. 11, 2013, at 8 p.m. CDT.
The subtitle of the documentary is "The true story of a soldier's battle with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder [P.T.S.D.]." The family is seeking other venues and media outlets through which to distribute the film.
Their messages? That suicide is not a rational option, nor is it
inevitable. That there is never a single event to which one can trace an
explanation of suicide. And that there are others, like their son, who
may be suffering depression, PTSD, or ideas of suicide.
Dillion Naslund, 25, of Galva, Iowa, was a former member of the Iowa National Guard's 1st Battalion, 168th Infantry Regiment (1-168th Inf.) and 1st Battalion, 133rd Infantry Regiment (1-133rd Inf.). Both are units of Iowa's 2nd Brigade Combat Team (B.C.T.), 34th Infantry "Red Bull" Division.
"Dillion had felt he was alone," says his mother Lisa, "but we quickly found out that he wasn't." In the days and weeks following his December 2012 funeral, she says, more than a handful of other soldiers have independently contacted her family. They told her that Dillion's example had inspired each to seek help in their own struggles. "Dillion's legacy can be to save lives," she says. "He's already saved lives."
According to news reports, eight former or actively drilling citizen-soldiers from Iowa have committed suicide since December 2012. All were between the ages of 18 and 25, and experiencing relationship and/or financial problems. Nationwide, suicide-prevention efforts continue to be a concern of military veterans and families. They are also the focus of programs throughout U.S. military and veterans communities, including the National Guard.
Naslund had previously deployed as an infantry soldier to Iraq in 2007-2008. More recently, he had returned from a 9-month deployment to Eastern Afghanistan's Laghman Province in July 2011. Back home, in addition to being the member of a close family, he was active in the the local fire department, and worked a concrete construction job. Naslund died of a self-inflicted gunshot Dec. 10, 2012.
"Dillion wasn't any different than anyone else," Lisa Nasland says. "He had chores, he got grounded. He was just an ordinary kid who went off to war."
Friends and family say that Dillion had changed upon his return. He was no longer upbeat and respectful, and his drinking became destructive. Earlier in 2012, family and friends had picked up on warning signs, and had gotten Dillion to medical help. Once out of in-patient care, however, medical and counseling resources were located more than 2 hours away from Naslund's Ida County home.
"You want something or someone to blame," says Lisa Naslund. "It took me a long time to realize that my argument [with Dillion on the day of his death] wasn't to blame. His girlfriend wasn't to blame. I call PTSD 'the Beast.' The Beast is to blame."
Russ Meyer, a veteran, father of two U.S. Air Force pilots, and former president of Cessna, introduces the "Dillion" documentary in 1-minute trailer here, as well as embedded in this blog post below.
Independent film-maker Tom Zwemke is a Vietnam War veteran, a Naslund family friend, and a current member of the KPTS board of trustees. The documentary was first screened at a private gathering of more than 200 friends and family earlier this summer, at a Western Iowa celebration of Dillion's July 2 birthday.
According to the Veterans Crisis Line website:
1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, chat online, or send a text message to 838255 to receive confidential support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Support for deaf and hard of hearing individuals is available.