Five years after founding The Gratitude Campaign, I've received over 10,500 e-mails, and 1,500 comments on YouTube. It seems that there is a lot to talk about with regard to gratitude for those who serve; not the least of which is the ever present challenge of understanding how to keep the politics out of it. Hopefully this blog will give us an opportunity for some rational, reasonable, and respectful discussion. I hope you'll join us...

~Scott Truitt, FOUNDER


Monday, November 29, 2010

On How My Friend Kevin Died -- Part 2

Like many Service Personnel who return home after serving in combat, Kevin found that he could no longer relate to his wife that he was so connected to prior to combat. I don’t know all of the details of their relationship, nor would it be my place to share them if I did. Suffice it to say that their marriage was one more casualty of that roadside bombing in Iraq.

Kevin was very open and honest about the fact that he struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). He opened up to me (and to anyone who would listen) about the nightmares; the flashbacks; averaging two to three hours of sleep per night; the fears of IED’s (Improvised Explosive Devices) even on the Washington State highways that he’d driven for years; the imbalances in his body as a result of the numerous medications he was encouraged to take; the ineffectiveness of multiple rounds of inpatient treatment programs; and to add insult to injury, the limitations that having TBI and PTSD put on his career options within the military that he had dedicated his entire adult life to.

As is all too often the case, the treatment that Kevin was receiving for his TBI and PTSD was inadequate to address the problem. So Kevin, like many others in his shoes, began medicating himself with alcohol just to be able to survive from day to day. And while he was fully aware that this was not a productive solution to the problem, it was the only solution that provided the comfort he needed. And the other solutions being offered to him weren’t working. Proportional to the PTSD that it was intended to dampen, his drinking was severe.

The shortest, simplest answer to the question, “How did my Hero, Master Sergeant Kevin Johnson die?” is that he drank himself to death. His liver failed, and essentially poisoned his blood. Kevin spent his final days in a hospital bed, surrounded by his family, waiting for the peace of death.

There are those who will say that by being so brutally honest here, I am dishonoring Kevin’s memory. I understand that, and I respect that. The conclusion that I’ve come to, along with Kevin’s family, is that to the contrary it is a testament to Kevin’s love for his fellow human beings that he would want people to know how he died. He would want people to learn from his experience, so that nobody would again have to endure what he endured. He would want people to understand that not every casualty of war dies in battle. For many, the injuries suffered in war do not leave a visible scar. But rather they sit beneath the surface, killing the Service Person slowly, methodically, perhaps years after the battle… and further injuring their loved ones along with them.

My friend Kevin was killed in Iraq in May of 2004. He died in a hospital in Seattle in November of 2010.


  1. My wonderful, fun loving, nephew who really was like my first son before I had children, also died at Desert Storm, but actually died Feb 16, 2008 from a self inflected gun shot to the brain, in front of his girlfriend, his baby girl in next room, he was drunk, it just helped him get thru his depressed state,and hurting so much mentally. He went into the military a happy go lucky kid. He adored his little girl, loved his mom. After Desert Storm he was not the same kid. He went thru this battle on home ground, not in Iraq, but still his own battle. My heart is broken that my baby couldn't make it, couldn't get rid of the demons of war. People need to know these men and women come back damaged and different. They survived the war, but lost the battle at home. I understand, I hurt with you, I cry. I go on, and wish Danny Don Trombatore could too.

  2. Wow, does this make my heart cry! My condolences to the family and all with similar experiences. I have a son-in-law, who just got home yesterday from a inpatient facility to treat his PTSD. He has been to Iraq three times. I thought he was doing well with all that he had been through. While facing a fourth deployment, he endured brain surgery. Through the stress of surgery, trying to maintain a "normal" family life and facing the fourth deployment, he finally exploded. While we hope and pray for a full recovery, we remain guarded. Please keep our family in your prays as I will yours! I'm very proud of you SSG J Sanchez! Keep fighting the good fight! Xoxo Mom

  3. My heart breaks for all of the families who must endure this terrible thing called war. All I can say is "Thank You", it doesn't help alot, but it comes from the deepest of my heart.I know that freedom isn't free and if it wasn't for our service men and women AND their families, we would not be the great country that we are. THANK YOU!!!


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