Traumatic brain injuries among military personnel can have a devastating impact and create invisible wounds.
Years of pain and suffering left a decorated Navy Seal feeling helpless. He hid the silent symptoms from his wife. Then, in his final act, gave her a mission of her own.
Jamie and David Metcalf embraced military life together.
“We just had this connection. I said, ‘He’s the one.’ And I knew it. I knew it on our second date, staring at him I said, ‘Oh man, I’m going to fall for this guy hard,” Jamie Metcalf said.
They married in 2012 and in 2016 they welcomed a son.
“Before we got married, he told me, ‘There’s a lot of things I can’t tell you, so please don’t ask,’” she said.
But the Navy Seal, who served as a combat instructor and physician’s assistant, did share some stories.
“He went and picked up a guy who had just gotten shot and when he came home, he said ‘He passed away and I knew he was going to pass away. I knew I’d be the last person he spoke to,’” Jamie Metcalf said. “I could tell that really tore him up.”
After an 11-month deployment in Afghanistan, she asked her husband about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
“One day I asked David, I said, ‘Do you have PTSD?’ It was probably the worst question I could have ever asked him,” she said. “And he looked at me and said, ‘No, and don’t ever ask me that again.’ “
He complained of headaches and not being able to sleep. Something was off.
On the day he was to report back to active duty in January 2019, Jamie Metcalf found a letter.
Beautiful, this will come as a surprise … There is no fixing what is wrong with me. Mentally, physically I haven’t been the same. Multiple concussions over those years have changed me. My gaps in memory, failing recognition, mood swings, headaches, impulsiveness, fatigue, anxiety and paranoia were not who I was but have become who I am. I have contemplated this act for a while …
For the first time, Jamie Metcalf is sharing her husband’s last words with the hope they’ll give voice to countless veterans and military personnel struggling with thoughts of suicide.
“The more we talk about it, the closer we will be to finding a solution for this,” she said.
Surrounded by a stack of books about concussion, David Metcalf final message was a call to action. He wasn’t alone. Among active-duty military in the last 20 years, 7,057 have died in combat, more than 30,000 have died by suicide.
“This helpless part of me wonders, is there a cure for this? I don’t know. Or maybe there is a cure for this and we’re not talking about it enough,” she said. “I am understanding more and more why David did what he did.”
With the support of a fellow Navy Seal’s family, Jamie Metcalf established the David R. Metcalf Invisible Wounds Foundation to help detect and treat traumatic brain injuries resulting from training and combat.
“At first this was healing and understanding for me and then it went to honoring David. And then when people came up to me and said, ‘I’m going through some issues, I’m going thru the same thing.’ … We just have to talk about it.”
The organization’s founders are focused on Navy Special Forces but they hope to expand to all branches of the military. There’s an event September 11 to honor David Metcalf and the Invisible Wounds Foundation.
If you or anyone you know is in crisis, you can call the Military & Veterans Crisis line at 988 and enter 1 or text 838255
Dial 988 for the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline
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