Makadoo

Nine months and 18 days after Makenna Jo was born, we were getting ready for a trip to the zoo that never happened. On February 21, 2010, while sitting in her high chair, Makenna was shot in the face by her father. Her father, a USMC combat veteran, suffered from PTSD. He was hypervigilant about security, and one of the ways that manifested was by practicing “dry firing.”

His new Glock had a round in the chamber that day, however. He negligently discharged a round and shot and killed my daughter. He subsequently spent time in prison. Our family ripped apart.
Ten years later, I’m not the person I was then. I love harder, forgive quicker and empathize deeper. I’m a better person, but my little person is gone. Who was she to be?

Chris Breseman

On May 3, 2003, an ex-girlfriend and her two friends tried to murder me. They took 27 shots at me, hitting me once in my abdomen. It took 28 major life-saving surgeries to survive. In the first surgery, I died three times and took 17 pints of blood. I lost my career in the U.S. Air Force and am now a 100 percent disabled USAF Veteran with serious PTSD, depression and anxiety.

Jeanelle Cornelius

On June 22, 2018, I saw my son’s smiling face for the last time. We ate a meal together, and he left to go out with friends. My daughter and I walked him to the door. He smiled at me and told me he would be back early the next day. On June 23, I awoke to the police at my door at around 2 a.m. Brandon had been shot. My beautiful son, who’d just turned 25 in May, had been shot “multiple times” and died from his injuries. My hopes and dreams went with him.

My boy had finished his time in the Army National Guard. He was doing well at work and had been approved for a home loan. He wanted to start a family. All of our lives were turned upside down that night. In the blink of an eye, some unknown people shot him. Now my family and I are trying to pick up the pieces. Brandon owned a fire arm, and I am not opposed to Second Amendment rights, but there needs to be more gun control. That might not have saved my boy, but it would certainly spare a lot of other parents the same pain.

Brandi Locke

In 2016, my husband, an Army veteran with four deployments, experienced difficulty processing his experiences and finding his identity outside of the military. One evening, I returned home with my children. As we entered our home, all of the lights were off. We were met by my husband, with an AK-47 strapped around his body. In a very serious voice, he informed me that there were people outside our home. With my coaxing, he returned the AK-47 to his locked gun safe but emerged carrying a bayonet, moving in stealthy motions throughout the home.

Eventually, that evening, the bayonet was exchanged for a pistol. He slept on our sofa with the pistol resting on his chest. I spent the night with my children, locked in a bedroom, terrified, questioning what action would be in the best interest of my children and my husband.

Ultimately, our marriage ended.

Today I continue to experience nightmares about that night. I awaken with the same fear, three years after the event. My thoughts about guns and gun legislation have changed. I hope that U.S. citizens will work cooperatively to legislate changes that make sense and create more security for everyone.

Anonymous

My uncle Joe came back from Vietnam a changed man, with a drug addiction and a bad case of undiagnosed PTSD. When I was little, he called me his favorite belated birthday present, and on his good days loved my sister and I so good. We would watch cartoons and eat breakfast on his visits to the house. We didn’t know at the time that his extended absence was due to self-medicating and a heroin addiction to avoid dealing with PTSD.

One afternoon on a boat during a fishing trip, my uncle Joe decided he had enough. He swallowed the barrel of a shotgun and ended his troubled life.

Our family changed that day in ways that none of us grasp over 20 years later.

Cheyenne

At 16, I lost my father, U.S. Army veteran, John, to suicide. Now 24, I am getting married this week, during Suicide Awareness Month, on his birthday, September 7. My father was mentally unwell, not only from battle, but from bipolar disorder as well. A man that unstable should not have had access to guns, yet our house was stocked with them. It makes me angry that if gun reform and mental health were prominently addressed in this country, by our government, my father would be able to walk me down the aisle this week.

Dolly Griggs

My only son Christian loved his family, his daughter Jaden and life. He was not only a remarkable son; he was a veteran who served our country honorably and heroically in Iraq. He survived war just to come home and be gunned down for being a father to his daughter. On October 12, 2013, Christian went to pick up Jaden, as he’d planned for months. He called his father, stating that his father-in-law was using profanity at him. Upon my husband’s arrival five minutes later, he found Christian lying face-down on the porch. His father-in-law had stood over him, fatally shooting him in the back, just inches beneath tattoos with a star, roses and script—”Forever young”” on one side and “Jaden” on the other.

Christian made this keepsake in elementary school, and he was so proud of it. He stored everything he held close to his heart in this box. A picture of Jaden is in there. He loved and treasured her with all his heart.

Courtney

Dwayne was everyone’s favorite person. He was the pride of our family. He was handsome, funny and smart. He was the brother that my brother never had. He was like a second son to my father. We were beyond proud when he enlisted in the Army and when he married his wife Makiala. They had four children. Dwayne, however, suffered from PTSD after leaving the Army and was being treated. He told his doctor and his father-in-law that his perception of reality was blurred. Early on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving in 2011 he took the life of his wife Makiala and then he took his own life. Dwayne should not have had access to guns, and a Red Flag law would have allowed his father-in-law or doctor to have his weapons removed for his own safety.

As a family, we are left trying to reconcile the charismatic person we knew with his final act. We are left trying to explain to his children why they were orphaned. We are left with two empty places at our table every Thanksgiving.

Temple Hiatt

I come from a large family, and I grew up tending to my four nephews. I enjoyed entertaining them during the holidays and babysitting them in the summer.

In 1991, I served in the first Gulf War as a member of the Army Military Police. I have a very clear memory of a moment when my unit was under a serious potential threat. My last thoughts were that my nephews would be taken care of and how much I would miss seeing them grow up.

Some 23 years later, my nephew Phillip died by gun suicide. One of my closest friends was his neighbor, and she called me while the ambulance was still in his driveway. I was the one that notified my family members.

Phil was 33 years old and had just returned from a vacation with family and was planning to propose to his girlfriend. The day that he took his life, he had reached out to to ask about a family history of mental illness. No one will ever know what his mindset was because, with a stroke of the trigger, his life was over. I often wonder about the unanswered questions: What happened? What was he experiencing? Could I have been a better resource for him? I will forever remember Phil’s infectious laugh, his warmth and his ability to put others at ease.

To be able to write about this as part of the Moments That Survive project is very important to me. Until recently, I had not thought of myself as a gun violence survivor, and now it is clear that I am. As a veteran, I am very aware of the impact mental illness plays in suicides. It is important that we make space for people to talk about their fears and concerns. We must also hold our elected officials accountable for providing the necessary support to our local communities by fully funding mental illness and enacting Red Flag laws.

Judy Thomas

In 2006, I was walking to my car from the train station here in the Bay Area of San Francisco. I was surrounded by three guys who put a gun to my head and told me they were going to kill me if I moved. I moved anyway. A fight occurred, they beat me in the head severely and tried to murder me. The third time I went down, I saw stars and thought I might not live if they hit one more time. I am a military veteran! That soldier in me woke up, saved my life along with the mercy of almighty God! It forever changed my life!

I have been permanently disabled ever since. Had to even give my up-and-coming Macy’s career in the buying office of San Francisco. Been under the care of both psychiatrists and medicine for brain issues, including PTSD. Not to mention the physical effects I still deal with…

I am a trained as soldier; I believe in reasonable gun control. And as a hunter, you don’t need a magazine-type weapon to kill while hunting. And if you don’t eat what you kill, well, you’re not a true hunter, anyway!! I even have a service dog. Life is always worth living, but it has been a challenge to protect my rights and help educate the rest of you, who have no CLUE!

YOU TOO CAN BE THE FLOWER IN THE GUN!!

Join us all, pray hard that next, it’s not you in my shoes!