Thoughts From A Survivor

Caring is a unique ability we all need to cultivate and the letter above shows how helping just one person can be very rewarding and humbling. Interacting with those who are struggling with suicidal thoughts has significantly contributed to saving my own life. As I continue my own inner battles, I have become more and more resilient.

I am proud to say I am recovering from having suicidal thoughts and even gestures. Sometimes the demons within return. But, through constant reinforcement from my wife, Cathy, and also by educating myself about building resilience, I have become Stronger. Yes, Its all too simple to just help a fellow survivor, but I have walked in the shoes of wanting to die at my own hands — and that walk is dark and frightening. Although the initial suicidal thoughts have past they are still in my long term memory and return all too often.

Every American that has considered this terrible act now finds themselves as their own “worst enemy”. Thirty percent who consider suicide actually succeed and take their own life.

Our inner battles continue. But, we must attack these demonic thoughts and win the battle.

I read the news daily. I close my eyes and listen to all talk. Some say where not doing enough. July was the worse month ever to date.

What if five years ago the Army had done nothing about suicide prevention, how big would the number be?

We need to take the initiative and help just one person at a time. We have to show others just how simple it is to help our fellow Americans. We need to make caring less unique and more common.


Just wanted to share on this the 2nd anniversary of you saving my life, my life has taken so many twist over the last four years.

I really feel in my heart if not for you: I would be dead.

Words alone cannot say enough about what you have personally gave back to this Army and our Country both on Active duty, and now as you help yourself through your own battles with Post traumatic stress and Suicide to care enough to spend all your time helping others. I am amazed by seeing you as one man what you’ve done. Your book alone has touched so many as I read the feedback on your website. I love you brother so much; you are my best friend. Please feel free to forward, I want to share my story to save others. We need more like you, you’re vision up helping one Soldier or Veteran every day is remarkable. I will never be able to repay the debt I owe you.

My Story: “We Leave No One Behind”

My name is Dale Luttrell and this is my story that I wanted to tell about one man who saved my life, CSM Sam Rhodes and everyone who else that cross’s path with that may need a helping hand up. It’s true he’s one of a kind, one who knows no stranger, never too busy to just listen, hold you or cry with you. “He is my hero”;

I was at my lowest point in life. The 2010 year had not been good to me. I lost my wife Kathy in March and then two weeks later I lost my youngest Brother David. I knew I had to make some changes in my life. My Wife and I raised Quarter Horses. At the time we had fourteen and I knew that I wasn’t able to keep all of them. I got my herd down to four horses. I kept my stallion The Black Cloud, and two of his sons and a daughter. This was going to be my chance to start over when things got back to normal, or so I thought.

The weeks rolled by and I was getting more depressed every day. In July my oldest Brother Carroll came from Texas, his cancer had come back and little did I know that this would be the last time I would see him. I was being treated for PTSD at the VA in Tuskegee. They were really trying  to help me get through this time. In fact they would call daily and check on me.

One day I was really down and I wasn’t taking anybody’s calls and the next thing I know the Sheriff came busting into my house. The VA had called them to come and check on me. I told them I was OK and I just needed sometime to myself. Everything was OK. About a week later I was fed up with the whole mess and I called the VA and I said thanks but I no longer need your help anymore and that was that. Wrong thing to say to Doc. Campbell and His Staff, next thing I know the Sheriff was back out and told me they were taking me to the VA per court order. I said no you’re not. This young Deputy thought he was Rambo and said “You’re going one way or the other.” I told him he better be willing to use that gun he was carrying because that would be his only way to take me.

It was a good thing that there was an older Deputy with him. He told the young guy to go out and let him talk with me.

We talked and he was very calm and I finally said I’d go. When I got there they told me we going to put you in the Psy Ward and I told them Hell No. I wanted to see Doctor Gibson, and they did. I talked with him and told him that I wasn’t going to kill myself. I had to take care of dogs and horses. Lucky for me Doctor Gibson was a retired Naval Captain and knew how to treat me. This wasn’t the first time I had lost a wife. My first wife died of cancer. The month of August arrived, and boy what a month. The first two weeks were hell. I lost my Mother at 9:00 a.m., later that day I lost my oldest Brother Carroll who I was real close to. A week later I lost my only Sister Sue and later that week I lost my stallion The Black Cloud. He was my rock through all my PTSD. He and I had an understanding and it seem to me that he could lift me up when I needed it the most He was my partner. I starting going downhill fast, within the first few days of August, I was at my lowest ever in my life. I thought Viet Nam was a bad year, but I knew this year was out to get me.

I started thinking about ways to end it all. I didn’t give dam what Doctor’s Campbell, Gibson or Karen Boswell or Carolyn Hunter was saying. I had lost about everything I loved. I was behind in my house payment and they were going to get it, and at this point I didn’t care. By the middle of August I was ready to end it all.

About this time CSM Sam Rhodes Retired, the vice President of the Sergeant Majors Association came into my life and along with the VA they were not about to let me give up. They were fighting hard to get me going again. Sam and other Sergeant Majors and many others started working. The first thing they got me Quarters at Fort Benning. And one evening I was still at my house and I heard this knocking on the door. I went to the door and looked outside and it looked like someone was holding a Pick-up Truck rally. I can’t recall the number of trucks and trailers and people that had just showed up. Sam told me that they were there to move me. He begin saying, this is Sgt. Major so and so and this is his wife, both active duty and retired. I had never seen that many Sgt. Majors at one time even when I was in the Army, but here they were and to top it off they were working. I always remember Sgt. Majors telling people to work. They got me squared away at Fort Benning and they were pulling me ahead. I really don’t know that I would have been here to write this if it was not for the Sgt. Majors and wives and others plus the VA. It didn’t end there. I begin to think I was on every Sgt. Majors, active and retired call list. It seemed like one or more of them was calling to check on me or coming by, to make sure that I was getting back on my feet. When I got to the apartment at Fort Benning my kitchen was stocked, and Sgt. Major Padilla’s wife had prepared me at least two weeks’ worth of the best dinners ever. I was not alone any more.

I have a circle of Friends that I know will not “Leave me Behind”. They are in my Corner and I know that they will always be there no matter what. I don’t know how to thank so many people at Fort Benning; you are like family to me.

Things are great this August 2012; I have found a new Lady that is now my wife and we live on Lake Martin. My horses have a nice farm I rent with everything I could ask for. I have a new family and I still have my friends at Fort Benning.

Sam and I are close friends and I am so happy that he asked me to write this to be in His Book. Sam calls me every day. I just went to Bobby Prather’s my adopted brother’s wedding. He has a great new wife after many years of being alone. Bonnie was just made for him. I wish and hope that they have the same love for each other as Merle and I. I am sure glad that Sam has Cathy to keep him on the ball. On a personal note, I think that Sam still has a heart for the active duty guys and also the Vets. His Wounded Warrior Horse Program is helping Vets and families. I’m sure there are a lot of Vets out there who need not to be “Left behind”. I know it has been said time and time again that the military is a “Band of Brothers”. So let each of us takes time to reach out our hand to Our Brothers who need a Hand up. I want to say Thanks from the bottom of my heart to all who gave me their hand of friendship. Let’s all remember: “We Leave No One Behind”.

Sam has retired but he still thinks like he is on active duty, what a commitment to our country. I want to thank both Sam and his wife Cathy for your friendship and Love to Merle and I. Because Partner I probably, wouldn’t be here and have such a great Brother like you, in my corner.

Sharing may help others and I believe in that so to all Vets and active duty Brothers, I hope you see that through this part of my life story there is always hope. There is another “Wounded Warrior” out there that still believes that “We Leave No One Behind”.

Dale Lutrell