Local Army Major shines light on military suicides

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A local Army man is speaking out on military suicides and getting national attention.

People Magazine recently did a feature on Army Major Jeff Hall, of Davenport, as a way to address the growing epidemic that’s got military leaders looking for answers.

Pencil and paper help Hall sort through the images that cloud his head after two tours in Iraq.

Drawings, some of which are gruesome, illustrate his struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder.

"It's very therapeutic just to get it out," said Hall.

This hidden talent may never have been discovered.

"I hated everything, I hated myself and that level of hate paralyzed me," he said.

Hall’s wife of more than 20 years, Sheri, still remembers the day she feared the worst would happen five years ago.

"When he said he didn't want to live anymore, he wanted to die,” said Hall. “Two deployments to Iraq and I'd never feared for his life."

It's a reality that hits home with a lot of military members.

According to the Department of Defense, more soldiers died from suicide in 2012 than from combat.

The army's suicide rate climbed nine-percent since a prevention campaign was launched in 2009.

Critics blame a pervasive military culture that downplays mental health issues.

Hall says at the height of his depression, he feared reprisal or demotion.

"Many of us have dedicated our lives to the service of our country and we don't want to let it go just because we feel bad that day."

But, he says, the same people he worried would judge him helped get him back on his feet through a three-week program at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

"The program is kind of like being slapped in the face, so it took that slap in the face for me to be able to see myself and not blow up over little incidents.

While the worst is over, it's still an ongoing struggle for Jeff, Sheri and their two daughters.

"Both of them are doing well. We're trying to put our family back together. It takes time."

In addition to his role with the First Army as Health Promotions Officer, Major Hall counsels other soldiers dealing with suicidal urges.

Help is out there through the Department of Defense Real Warriors Campaign http://www.realwarriors.net/ and other local support groups like http://www.jasonsbox.com/get-help-now.html