September 04, 2013

Name: Charlie Sherpa
Previously embedded: with former unit in Afghanistan
Hometown: Boone, Iowa
Milblog: Red Bull Rising
Email: SherpaatRedBullRising.com

"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.

The Veterans Crisis Line is a toll-free and on-line resource staffed by trained Department of Veterans Affairs personnel, who can confidentially assist soldiers, veterans, families and friends toward local help and resources.

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.


Thanks for Dillion documentary YT movie. really useful, I was looking for it :)

I would love to watch this video, however I am having trouble finding it on YT movie. If someone has a link, I'd appreciate if you could post it.
I am thankful that the family was able to share their story and bring more attention to a problem that has inflicted generations of Vets and their loved ones.

My deepest regards to those who give 110% everyday for their country.
God Bless

I'm so grateful to the Dillion's family for this documentary. It is great to see them speaking openly about PTSD since mental health struggles often come with great stigma attached. Sometimes it is easy for me to forget that the struggles that come with being in the military don't stop once people return home.

PTSD is an issue that vets have been struggling with for so long. Thank you to Dillion's family for reliving this tragedy over and over in the hopes of helping someone else. How genuinely selfless.
Blessings to you

I admire the Dillion’s family for their courage to recite this tragedy. I believe that such documentary would be helping someone who suffering from PTSD. I hope the other families follow suit to help another families.

God bless you

This post really hit home for me, I have a friend from the Marines that committed suicide a year ago. He had a drinking problem and got help for that but after he was out of rehab everything went downhill. I do not know exactly what he was going through just that I wish I could of been then there to help him. Thoughts with the Dillon family and every other family out there going through this.

This was an extremely touching post especially with my farther being in the military. I can not imagine losing him by suicide, but when discussing it with him he will not talk about experiences he has went threw he said they were so horrific he would not wish them upon his worst enemy. Sad to think not only do we have to worry about losing them in other countries but also in our own homes.

This brought tears to my eyes reading, i couldn't help but think if i put myself in his shoes and how i would deal with that. He had been through a bunch of tough experiences and did not know of any way to erase them. Im sorry for your loss and just know that he is in a better place now. Thank you for sharing

While I've never been a soldier, I have also struggled with severe depression and thoughts of suicide. It is very unfortunate that these soldiers feel alone upon returning home. We tend to think of casualties of war only as KIA, but that isn't even remotely the case. Hopefully Dillon's family can shed some light on the subject with this documentary. I am very sorry for Dillon and his family. But, as they said, his legacy will be to save lives. Thank you, Dillon, for your sacrifices.

My heart goes out for Dillon's family. I decided a few months ago that I want to change my major and to attend school to become a counselor. It is people like Dillon that changed my heart. I know that I can not make anyone choose life, but hopefully I can help them find a reason or a hope to live for again. May God bless Dillon's family and others like them for being willing to stand up and make the cries of soldiers heard.

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