My name is Jessica Zeller and I am a widow of one of the 22. My husband Sgt. Darren Zeller, USMC took his own life on September 21, 2014. He was 30 years old. Sgt. Darren Zeller served five years in the United States Marine Corps and was a proud Marine who was awarded the Navy Achievement Medal.
For six years I lived through the struggles he had with PTSD. It is a hopeless feeling of not being able to help and not understanding why. He kept things in, didn’t share feelings and at times I don’t even know if he knew he needed help. I watched his drinking become a problem and his emotions go from the happy go lucky man I once knew to a helpless being.
I have been left behind to deal with the aftermath of his suicide. For months I wondered why, was it me, what could I have done? Three weeks after his passing I contacted Active Heroes to see what I could do to become involved, I needed to find a purpose. Active Heroes responded right away and I then decided I wasn’t ready to deal with the reality that my husband was a statistic. Even though I wasn’t ready, Active Heroes kept in contact with me and the support was amazing. To think I had never met anyone from the charity face to face but could turn to them was beyond inspiring.
On June 12, 2015, Active Heroes flew me to Kentucky to participate in their Carry The Fallen Team Leader training. While there I visited the 144-acre retreat that is going to do wonders for many families. I also participated in setting up a booth to raise awareness. I was able to tell my story to hundreds of Veterans which felt good. I had a gentlemen come up to me after and ask if he could give me a hug. He was crying and said, “I suffer from bad PTSD”. In that moment, I knew he had come to the right place and that I had joined an amazing cause. We got him information about the retreat and also exchanged numbers so he knew he had someone to talk to.
Active Heroes has given me the purpose I was looking for in this new life of mine. I couldn’t save my husband but I am now on a mission to spread the word of this ridiculous statistic that is 22 a day. People need to be aware that this is happening and that there are things that can be done to end it.
I am honored to be a team leader for this amazing cause and am going to do everything in my power to spread the word for Active Heroes and my husband. One veteran suicide a day is too many and I pray that someday that number will be zero. There is still a lot of work to be done but I know that with all of us together we can reduce veteran suicide.
I thank Active Heroes for hosting me this past weekend and I’m excited to shout from the rooftops to get the word out. Keep up the good work you all are doing and I will be working around the clock to do everything I can. I look forward to making it back for one of the camping weekends to volunteer.
If you are a Veteran or Active Duty and are having suicidal thoughts or struggles please reach out to Active Heroes and get the resources you need. God Bless all of our Active Duty/Veteran men and women and their families.