Wichita veteran attempts suicide after death of friend and fellow Marine writes book

Wichita veteran attempts suicide after death of friend and fellow Marine writes book


Editor’s note: This article contains talk of suicide, which may be upsetting to some readers.

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — Aaron Childress wanted to join the Marines after the 9/11 attacks on America. However, his military career was dragged down by a series of injuries within the Marine Corps and multiple deaths of his friends, culminating in a suicide attempt.

Imagine signing up to serve your country and quickly building a brotherhood with your fellow Marines through boot camp and basic training.

Now, imagine losing almost all of your closest Marines, along with a few other close friends, all within a few months.

This happened to Childress as well. A series of feelings of loss, despair, sadness, depression and responsibility overtook him. Soon, he thought that suicide might be the best option.

“I wanted to be a Marine when I was little because my dad was a Marine. So when 9/11 happened, you know, the world got a little weird for a few days,” Childress said. I did. “We were shut down and didn’t know what was going on. We were all confused and hurt.”

“When I thought about who to choose, I had the Navy, Army, Air Force and Marines, but I wanted someone who could do some damage,” he said.

Childress was sent to Parris Island, South Carolina, for boot camp and basic training.

“I graduated from infantry school. I had all my friends there. We were all going to go to K-Bay (Kaneohe Bay). Well, the recruiter back home found out about it and I… I was supposed to go to this Fast Company, but I didn’t know that. It’s like an anti-terrorism operation,” Childress explained. “All my friends go to K-Bay, and we were such a close-knit group that it split us up quite a bit.”

“Actually, that’s where things fell apart. Not long after that, all my friends who went to K Bay died in a helicopter accident. It was on January 26, 2005,” he said.

Newspaper headlines dubbed the day “Iraq’s deadliest day.” Thirty-one U.S. soldiers were killed aboard a CH 53 Sea Stallion helicopter in Iraq’s Al-Anbar province.

“You know, I saw guys like St. Cairn, Kelly, those guys, Gordon, Smith, and I was like, oh…” Childress hung her head and stopped as she began to crumble. “I would have been with those guys, too.”

“My first friend passed away in November (2004). My second friend passed away in December (2004), and they all passed away in January (2005), and after that it was really… “It seemed like it was out of control,” he said.

Ms. Childress also lost her best friend and roommate, Bradley, in a car accident.

“When you have nearly 20 of them stacked together, you just end up with a violent, gruesome death. I don’t think anyone can do that,” he said.

US Army bombing expert survived 4 IED explosions in Iraq and Afghanistan

Around the same time, Childress was in a naval hospital recovering from a foot injury and multiple surgeries to repair a torn Achilles tendon.

“And that’s when I had what I would now call the first type of thought: I just want to kill myself,” he said.

Shortly after leaving the Marines in 2005, Childress lost another friend.

“I don’t actually have an answer, but I have the seeds of suicide floating in my mind, thinking, “Maybe I should kill myself,”” he says. “And Twiggs does that. What he did was kill himself and his brother and shoot himself.”

Childress began thinking about her own exit.

“I didn’t have the ability to love. I wasn’t capable of loving others, and even though I was married and had children, I couldn’t do it myself.” ” he said. “And now I’m ruining my family. That’s why I went into the garage and hanged myself.”

“Obviously, I was discovered and apprehended and taken to the hospital. I have lasting damage from that,” he said.

Neuroscientists, doctors and researchers from across the United States lined up to speak with a Marine who survived a suicide attempt. Childress picked her up and prodded her. He was booked to address various classes and businesses from one end of the country to the other.

“Yes, I’ve been traveling all over the country for over 10 years. I just don’t even know how many places I’ve been to and talked about,” he said.

“I’ve buried more friends than I’ve celebrated my own birthday,” he told the group during a discussion on the college campus. “Basically every state. They took me to California, DC. I’ve been there.”

Ms. Childress wrote a book about what she learned after her suicide. Its title is “These Thousand Days: Here’s What I Learned After I Killed Myself.” He shared one thing he’s learned since his 2012 suicide attempt.

“The biggest thing I’ve learned in 12 years of doing this job is that you absolutely have to love people. Unconditionally and without judgment,” he said.

Childress continues to work in crisis counseling. He believes he has received at least 2,000 calls from veterans contemplating suicide. A documentary about his story is in the works, as well as a feature film based on his second book, which has been completed but has not yet been released.

Help is available for anyone who needs help with their mental health, whether it’s for a family member, friend, co-worker or even themselves. Click here for a list of local resources.


If you would like to nominate a veteran for the Veterans Salute, please email KSN reporter Jason Lamb at jason.lamb@ksn.com.

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