- Post 19 July 2012
- By Karin Marinaro
To lose a child is one of the worst tragedies in life. I have almost lost my son, Marine 1st Lt. Robert Marinaro, 26, twice — once in Afghanistan and once here — by suicide.
My son was raised with strong morals. Upon graduation from high school, Rob received scholarships to college and was nominated to attend the U.S. Naval Academy. Although an issue with his eyes medically disqualified him from the academy, he received a Navy ROTC scholarship to Carnegie Mellon University and excelled. Rob was commissioned at the top in his ROTC class, received honors from Carnegie Mellon in 2008 and graduated with distinction from the Marine Corps' Basic and Intelligence schools.
In 2010, Rob deployed to Afghanistan where he collected intelligence from Afghans. In one particular situation, Rob was in a firefight with enemy forces when one of his Marines was lost, dying in my son's arms.
"Please don't die!" the Navy corpsman said to the mortally wounded lance corporal. Every day since, my son deals with that memory.
With his tour complete in September 2010, Rob returned to Camp Pendleton in California. Soon thereafter, Rob began to struggle.
I watched my beautiful, bright, loving son, wrestle with his mental demons and implored him to get help. Unfortunately, as a military officer, he faced an even greater stigma for those seeking psychiatric help than that experienced by younger Marines or junior leaders. The tough culture of the Marine Corps is harsh on those who seek help. Nevertheless, I told him that a true leader recognizes his own weaknesses and seeks help.
Sadly, Rob did not receive the help he needed until it was too late.
In an attempt to dull his pain, Rob turned to alcohol and drugs. Like so many other servicemen and women, he lost his judgment along the way. A DUI followed, and later an unauthorized absence.
Lt. Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, commanding general of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, told him at a hearing in January that because of his post-traumatic stress disorder, character and honorable service, he would recommend an honorable discharge.
Rob's mental state improved and he looked forward to starting a new chapter of his life. He applied to and was accepted by a number of prestigious graduate programs in computer and electrical engineering. If the paperwork had gone as expected, Rob would have been discharged in April and been able to go on with his treatment and life.
Then, at the end of April, Rob received notice that the Marine Corps would not grant him an honorable discharge and would conduct a second inquiry, which could result in a general or other than honorable discharge.
Rob felt betrayed and his whole world collapsed. Leadership at the Pentagon apparently disregarded Gen. Waldhauser's recommendations and the bureaucracy of the Department of Defense and Marine Corps unknowingly plunged my son into a spiral of depression.
That's when he tried to commit suicide by overdose.
I flew from Connecticut to California and for the past two months I have watched my son slowly die as they put him through this ignoble process. Caught in the throes ofpost-traumatic stress disorder, Rob made the rash decision to resign his commission because he felt was the fastest way through the unbearable system. He is still awaiting a decision.
In a cruel and ironic twist, Rob was recently hospitalized again, so I had to retrieve some of his belongings from a treatment facility where he had been. I went to Camp Pendleton and was asked to sign a paper acknowledging that I received his belongings. There were a hundred names on the list with Rob's and after each name was the word "DECEASED." I was devastated.
I will do everything in my power to save my son and others like him. They are not "worthless," as one of the colonels at Camp Pendleton referred to Rob, but human beings who need help. As the mother of a Marine, I stand true to the Marine Corps motto, "Semper Fidelis." It is sad that there are those in the Marine Corps who do not.
It is bad enough that we lose our servicemen and women in combat, but when we lose them here, we have failed them. I will not fail my son. We have to recognize the escalation of suicides among military members and do something about it now. We cannot brush it under the rug like Vietnam — we have to deal with head on — and do all we can to help heal and support our veterans.
Just as Rob held his dying Marine comrade and heard the words, "Please don't die!" so are we, as a nation, holding our citizen-soldiers as they struggle with the horrors of modern combat.