SFC Randy Abrams, a 3rd tour returning Combat Solider, died March 20, 2009. He was a returning Combat Soldier who did not receive the help he needed and tragically died because of it.
Randy died by suicide during a PTSD flashback during the night in his bed at home. He put a .45 caliber handgun to his head and pulled the trigger.
Hello, I am Roxann Abrams, Randy's mother. Thank you for taking the time to read my son's story. I write this biography celebrating his life and mourning his death. SFC Randy Abrams was a real person, with a real family. This really happened in 2009, and is STILL happening to this day. The best way I can honor my son is to help his brothers. Operation: I.V., Inc. was born to provide effective treatments and support for our Iraq and Afghanistan combat veterans.
Randy is my oldest son, and still today is a very integral part of our family. As his mother, I can tell you the pain of losing a child is indescribable. And the senselessness of his death makes the pain worse. This is an emotional wound that for me, will never heal. I will never "get over it" or "get past it." The day my son died, I lost a part of myself that I will never get back. Truly, a part of me died that day too. As time goes on, and only with the help of Jesus Christ, I am learning how to cope with his death.
Randy's senseless death has caused immeasurable pain to me, and many others also. His brother Daniel, his sister Lisa, his niece, nephews and sister-in-law, countless friends and the list goes on. Also included in this sea of pain, are Randy's Battle Buddies—his soldiers, the ones that worked for him. And then there are his friends. They all suffer from survivors guilt from his suicide on top of their own serious PTSD!
Randy was an amazing Son, Brother and Uncle. Perfect? No, not by any means. We teased him about being controlling—a necessary trait for being a good Military leader! And he was a good one. In addition to being a good leader, he was a very giving human being. That is why he chose the Military as his career—because he wanted to protect the freedoms we have in this country!
From the time he was 8 years old all he ever wanted to do was be a Marine. The Marine Corp recruited him directly out of high school ROTC, Arlington High School in Riverside, Ca. He had a very successful 6 year career in the Marines. Deciding to pursue another career path, he honorably discharged at the end of his enlistment. Two years later, he then realized the Military was still his passion. So he joined the Army.
Randy deployed to Iraq in early 2003, as was part of the 3rd ID out of Fort Stewart, Ga - these were the ground forces who were the first troops in at the onset of the Iraq war, March 20, 2003.
During his first days in Iraq, Randy was on one of the Baghdad entrance bridges engaged in a 30 hour firefight! Those bridges were named Curly, Moe, and Larry ... Randy was stuck on that middle bridge, Moe. Can you imagine having people trying to kill you for over 30 hours?! This is the reality of the situations these combat soldiers are in, many times over. In addition to actively engaging in war, they watch their buddies get blown up and die, all while having to kill other people! These are the atrocities of war. This is where Post-Traumatic Stress originates-being in a life-threatening situation, or witnessing one. The stress is further magnified with each successive event. Most of the time, combat PTSD does not show itself until the solider has returned to a safer environment like home. That is what tragically ended the life of my son, SFC Randy Abrams.
During Randy's time of service in the Army, he was a sniper and a weapons trainer. By the time he returned to the U.S. in June of 2008, he had personally trained over half of the Iraq Army soldiers on their weapons. He was a sniper as well. Randy was an Abrams (the name of a military tank) that sat on the back of a Bradley (another military tank). He was a force to be reckoned with all by himself.
Summer 2008 - His return from his 3rd tour
Upon his return in June, Randy bought himself a Harley motorcycle as a reward to himself for a job well done. In August of 2008, he rode across the country from GA to CA to visit his family and friends. The photo of him with his bike you see on this page was taken when he arrived in Santa Barbara, California.
He had made a decision to pursue his second love of motorcycles after completing his military career. He was excited about the decision he had made to become a Harley mechanic and eventually own his own Harley shop. He talked about it practically non stop during that visit.
Randy then rode up to San Francisco to see friends and returned to Ft Stewart, GA after a month long road trip Sept 2008.
Upon his return home from the trip to CA, Randy got the news he had been selected as a Drill Sgt. Instructor. He was going to Drill Sgt. school in February 2009. This is an honor that less than 10% of the military enjoys. It is an elite assignment. He never showed any outward signs that he was having difficulty to anyone (except one friend), until his very last day. All appearances indicated that he was just fine.
I later found out, that in October 2008, Randy began to have occasional flashbacks. Those flashbacks came and went over the next several months. He told only that one friend in the strictest confidence because in the military at that time (and still today), one is perceived as weak and unmanly if he seeks mental help of any kind.
The reality is that the social and professional climates of the military were then and still are of that mindset - that it is a bad thing to seek mental help - mistakenly believing they (the returning soldiers) should be able to handle those pressures and stresses on their own. This belief must change!
Christmas/New Years 2008-2009
Randy came home for Christmas 2008. We had a wonderful Christmas. Thank God for lots of family time and really good memories. He took his brother Daniel to a USC game on New Year's Day. It was the last time Daniel saw his brother. On January 2, 2009 I took my son to the airport. I hugged him, kissed him, and told him I loved him. The last words my son said to me in person were "I love you too, Mom." When I spoke to him later in the month of January, he seemed a little edgy, but that wasn't out of the ordinary, so it did not strike me as anything to worry about. He did tell me he was leaving February 18 to go to Drill Sgt. School and he wasn't happy about it. He also told me he would be out of school late April / early May, and would probably take leave and come home sometime late May-June, as one of his CA friends' wives was giving birth about then and he wanted to see their baby.
February 17, 2009 Randy's Last Day
I called Randy that day late morning PST (early afternoon EST). Got his voice mail, left him a message "Hi Randy. It's Mom. Call me back. I love you!" He called me back several hours later. As soon as he said, "Hello," I knew something was very wrong. I said to him, "Randy, you don't sound good. What's wrong?" He replied, "Nothing, Mom." I said, "That's not true, what's wrong?!" Again he said it was nothing, then changed the subject. We had a ten minute or so conversation ending with "I love you, Randy", " I love you too, Mom." He was supposed to be off to Drill Sgt. School the next day.
(I know this is confusing and doesn't add up yet, but keep reading, it will)
I called him 2 weeks later. The phone went straight to voice mail...or so I thought. This was not uncommon if he was out in the field on a training mission.
March 14 - Randy's Birthday
I called him and got a weird recording, not his voice mail. My other kids and I were calling each other that day asking, "Have you talked to Randy?" Everyone said they had not, and we all got that same weird recording, assuming he was out in the field.
March 19 - I got the call - I woke up to 3 messages in my voice mail: 1 from Randy's landlord, 1 from Randy's unit, and 1 from his friend. His Lieutenant asked me if I had seen Randy or talked to him in the last few days. I said "No." They told me he had never shown up for Drill Sgt. School February 18. "WHAT?! Over a month ago, and you are just now calling?!", I asked. They said they had been to his house and he wasn't there. I asked if his Harley and/or his car were at his house. The lieutenant replied that they were. I said "If his bike and his car are still in the driveway then somebody did something to him, or he did something to himself." I told the officer what tattoos Randy had and where they were on his body. My son wasn't the kind of person to not show up to something, especially work, and not call. That just wasn't Randy. I knew right then, in my heart, he was dead. Later that day, I got a call from the Army telling me officers were coming to my house to talk to me. Now I knew there was no denying it. Randy was dead. He had always told me "No news is good news. If they ever call you and tell you they are coming to the house to talk to you, that means I'm dead." At that moment, I dropped to the floor and cried inconsolably. Sometime later, I don't know how long of a time it was...I realized I had to tell my other two children their brother was dead. You see, not only did the military, in Randy's case, the Army, drop the ball when it came to getting him the proper help upon his return from combat, they dropped the ball across the board.
My son, while still Active Duty, laid dead in his home for 33 days before the Army discovered his body! The only reason the Army went to Randy's house that day is because his landlord called his commanding officer, because he hadn't paid his rent for March!!
How can that happen? How can the Army not know where an ACTIVE DUTY, Sergeant First Class slated for Drill Sgt. School is for 33 days?!!! It's been a few years now, and I've never gotten an acceptable answer from the Army. When he didn't show up for Drill Sgt. School apparently, no one from the school notified his Commanding Officer that he did not report for duty (or so they say). Upon getting that call from Randy's landlord, members of his unit went to his house. Seeing his car outside, they let themselves in with the landlord, and upon entry discovered his body and called police.
When the police entered Randy's house that day, they discovered he had clothes in the washer and dryer, a duffel bag 3/4 packed to go to school in the living room, $75.00 in his wallet, along with a bank withdrawal and receipt for gas. He had dropped his clothes on the floor and gotten into bed, had the TV remote, computer and ashtray on the bed as if he had been watching TV, and gone to sleep. He still had the gun in his hand up against his head, and had been deceased for 4-5 WEEKS!!
..... please keep reading .....
Retrieving his body from Fort Stewart was terrifying, but something I had to do. I flew back with Randy's sister, Lisa, my youngest child, and together, along with Randy's best friend, brought Randy home for a full honors Military funeral held on April 2, 2009. Randy is buried in the Riverside National Cemetery, Riverside CA.
During my trip to Fort Stewart, I learned that one of Randy's friends urgently requested to speak to me privately. This is when I learned that Randy had been having PTSD flashbacks for several months. In January, after being with his family, those flashbacks had gotten worse. He told one of his friends that he had woken up several times with his gun in his hand, and was having flashbacks both when he was awake and asleep. His friend was so concerned about Randy, he actually took Randy's hand guns from him for several weeks. Then he gave the guns back, and several weeks later Randy shot himself. Why didn't his friend tell anyone? He couldn't. "Military code of silence." I know military Commanding Officers will deny this, but it's true. It's STILL true. Why didn't Randy say anything? Same code. Why did Randy die?? The perceived stigma of getting help is why, and there are numerous other vets that aren't getting adequate help today.
I decided it was time to become an amateur private investigator into my son's death. I personally put the pieces together of his last day. I then hired a professional private investigator to get the whole truth of his last months and last day. As Randy's mother, I had to know what really happened to my son! Because of that professional private investigation, I fully understand that my son died because he did not get the help he needed and deserved when he came home.
Randy's last hours ( Feb 17)
He had gone to the bank ATM about noon, out to eat at McDonald's just after that, and then on to the gas station to put gas in his car. He had 7 messages on his cell phone-one of those was from me, his mother. I am the only person he called back. I was the last person to whom he spoke. the night he died.
In summation, 4 months after Randy's return from his 3rd Iraq deployment, he began having PTSD flashbacks that progressively worsened until he couldn't take it anymore. That's when he took his own life. If he had received proper treatment for PTSD and TBI upon his return, he would still be alive today. But he didn't. The military's "suck it up" environment, and the knowledge that if he did get mental help, it would ruin his otherwise spotless military record both played substantially into his suicide. Unfortunately, there is nothing I can do to bring my son back, and my heart will forever be broken because of his senseless death.
I founded Operation: I.V. in Randy's honor and memory to help prevent what happened to my son, from happening to more Combat Vets.
What I can do, and what you can do too, is help other soldiers get the proper treatment they need upon their return, so they can have a different ending to their deployment experiences. I am committed to a successful transition for our combat veterans through Operation: I.V.
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Operation:I.V., Inc is a 501c3 tax exempt organization founded to provide effective treatment services to Combat Veterans effected by Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury. Your generous donations are tax deductible.