INDIANAPOLIS — An Indianapolis mother is sharing her story of tragedy in order to help others. Her son, a combat veteran, committed suicide after multiple tours of duty.
The story is part of a national effort to try and save the lives of soldiers.
At age 18, Jeffery Reber proudly signed up to be a Marine.
“He said it wasn’t something he had to do. It was something he needed to do,” said his mother Debbie Reber.
Debbie’s son served in the Marine Corps for 11 years. During that time he deployed twice to Iraq, where he was forced to take a life for the first time.
“He told me somebody came around the corner and was going fire on him, so he shot and killed him. I didn’t find until after he passed away that it was a 10-year-old boy,” said Debbie.
After serving additional tours in Afghanistan and Yemen, Jeffery returned home to California.
In August 2014, Jeffery shot and killed himself, leaving behind a wife and two young kids.
“I actually talked to him 45 minutes before he passed away and didn’t have a clue,” said Debbie. “His Marine buddies said he was the same guy, but he changed. He saw a lot of horror over there.”
On Tuesday, Debbie shared her grief with Michele Ladd, who runs a group called National Veteran Resources.
Michele is driving an RV to 7 states, covering 3,500 miles, visiting mothers whose children took their own lives after serving in the military.
The goal is simply to raise awareness of an issue that often doesn’t always get enough attention.
“This trip is all about the moms that have lost their sons and daughters to suicide,” said Ladd.
Michelle is encouraging families to recognize signs of danger in their loved ones, like depression, isolation, relationship issues, and more.
She’s also asking veterans to sign her RV, pledging to seek help before it’s too late.
“Our mission is you’re not alone. If you need help, go get help,” said Michele.
“Until my son, I didn’t have a clue about the problem. I may have been able to save my son had I known, because I could have talked to him more about it,” said Debbie.
Debbie also hopes to change a national policy that the U.S. Department of Defense does not recognize suicide cases on national monuments.
Anyone who needs help dealing with suicidal thoughts can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 24 hours a day at 800-273-8255.