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.