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Retired two-star speaks out about son's suicide

Sep. 25, 2012 - 12:03PM   |   Last Updated: Sep. 25, 2012 - 12:03PM  |  
Second Lt. Jeffrey Graham, left, and ROTC cadet Kevin Graham, right, were the sons of Maj. Gen. Mark Graham and his wife Carol. The brothers died within months of each other. Jeffrey fell in combat and Kevin took his own life. Their parents use this image when they speak publicly about suicide prevention.
Second Lt. Jeffrey Graham, left, and ROTC cadet Kevin Graham, right, were the sons of Maj. Gen. Mark Graham and his wife Carol. The brothers died within months of each other. Jeffrey fell in combat and Kevin took his own life. Their parents use this image when they speak publicly about suicide prevention. (Courtesy Graham family)
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Kevin Graham, 21, was planning to be an Army doctor. He was athletic, intelligent and well-liked, his father said. He kept his depression a secret.

He committed suicide June 21, 2003. His parents say they missed the warning signs.

Eight months later, Kevin's older brother, 2nd Lt. Jeffrey Graham, was killed by an improvised explosive device in Iraq.

The Grahams and their daughter, Melanie, were devastated — again. But they decided to speak out to groups and military people.

They would understand how to talk to other military people. The two young men's father is retired Maj. Gen. Mark Graham, the former G-3 for Forces Command and former commanding general of 4th Infantry Division.

He has a message.

"No matter what rank, young soldiers, NCOs, commissioned officers, we have got to eliminate the stigma," Graham said. "We've got to make sure every door our service member goes through for help is the right door with the right answer for care, and we've got to help and not judge."

Graham, who said the stigma is decreasing but remains "deadly," said the issue isn't just superiors looking out for subordinates, but also soldiers taking care of one another.

Graham said he and his wife, Carol, missed the signs with their son Kevin.

"We were part of the stigma, too," he said. "We did not know the warning signs. I did not know that you could die from being too sad."

Graham said he and his wife knew their son had depression but did not know its severity.

"Everybody makes mistakes, but my wife and I made a mistake that we can never fix. We can never get our son back. We did not get him the care he needed."

Kevin Graham was seeing a psychologist at the University of Kentucky, but Mark Graham said he wishes he had taken his son to the best medical care possible.

"Our son had a lot to look forward to in life, but he killed himself," Mark Graham said. "

The Grahams want "something good to come out of Kevin's life."

"Even though he was never able to become a doctor, his story is helping save people's lives," Mark Graham said.

The memory of Jeffrey is with them as they speak to people, Graham said.

"If Jeff had survived that IED … he would be struggling like so many … with wounds you can see and wounds you cannot see. So when we see these service members and veterans wherever we speak, we know it could be our son Jeff."

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