In a speech on the Senate floor, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) today honored the heroism of U.S. Marine Justin Eldridge of Waterford, Conn. On Monday, Eldridge lost his long battle with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Excerpts from Blumenthal’s speech are below.
“No one in this body – other than I – have the privilege to know Justin Eldridge of Waterford, Conn. Justin was a true American hero, a patriot, a United States Marine who served our country in Afghanistan and who scarcely more than 48 hours ago took his own life at his home.
“I first came to know Justin when he formed a chapter of the Marine Corps League in Southeastern, Conn. He believed deeply in the Marine Corps, in service to his country, his family, and in the values and traditions and ethos of all of our great United States Marines, and men and women who wear the uniform. I will never forget my conversations with him at that Marine Corps League and then afterward by e-mail and phone.
“Even after he returned home from Afghanistan, Justin had a long fight ahead of him. He returned home with the signature wounds of [the Afghanistan] war, both traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress. And he worked for years to get the specialized treatment that he needed.
“He tried hard to be there for his family. According to his wife Joanna, his four children loved having him around. Joanna … was there for Justin by his side throughout his treatment and she never gave up, never relented, never surrendered. She was his full-time caregiver and Justin himself continued to give back. Joanna is a strong advocate for all veterans, as we should be, all of us.
“I cannot express in words how deeply sorry I am that that treatment evidently proved unsuccessful – perhaps not the result of the V.A. or its doctors or its hospital, [but] because we are only beginning to learn as a country and society how to confront post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury with the specialized diagnosis and care that these diseases demand.
“I want to take this occasion to encourage anyone who is suffering from post-traumatic stress or traumatic brain injury or any of the other wounds of war to reach out for help. The veterans crisis line is there to help you, anyone who needs that help can call 1-800-273-TALK.
“My thoughts and prayers are with Justin’s wife Joanna and their four children, and all of Justin’s family and friends, fellow Marines who grieve his loss at this difficult time.”