I used to work with Frank Spivey, and now he’s dead. He committed suicide by cop earlier this week. He was living in Las Vegas, recently retired from the Air Force. Watching a news clip, it seems he was depressed and overwhelmed about the difficulty he was having in finding a job. He’d asked his wife for a divorce, saying it might be easier for her and the kids, but wasn’t sure that’s what he really wanted.
He was outside his apartment with a rifle. It looks like the apartments where Jody used to live, just down the street from my Vegas apartment (I was stationed there in 1995 – 1996). He was shooting rounds into the air, and the police came. They tried to talk him down, but it didn’t work. When he started shooting into an apartment, which they thought may have people in it, they had no choice but to shoot him. I really feel for that poor cop, too. He did the right thing, but still has to live with this for the rest of his life…
I worked with Frank at RAF Lakenheath, in England. We were both working Storage. He was a Staff Sergeant at the time – he made Master Sergeant before he retired. I was probably a Senior Airman, but I put on Staff Sergeant a few months before I left there. I just remember him as a genuine, nice person. He treated others with respect, and really listened to them. He tried to get me to go to a Bible study or church group with him, but never pressed it when I declined.
The last 6 months I was in England I lived in the small village of Weeting. This was after my now ex-wife and the boys left and headed back to the States. Frank was also living in Weeting. I think he had just arrived. We sometimes rode to work together. I used to walk around Weeting, and passed his house a few times. He was always affable and friendly. And now he’s dead.
It’s funny, but one of my overriding memories of SSgt Spivey is his bad haircut. His hair was too long for the Air Force, and it was just basically cut back around his ears. A lot of us ended up doing that when we too broke to get a real haircut…
I hadn’t thought much of him over the years. And now he’s dead. Our time didn’t overlap much. And yet I still find myself thinking about him. Maybe because it seems so out of character. Or maybe because we’ve all had those suicidal thoughts. Leaving the military can be rough. Finding a new job can take many months. It’s a completely different world. AMMO (our career field) supports one another, pretty much without fail. You don’t find that in the civilian world, even after you find a permanent position. You definitely don’t have that during your job hunt. It can be depressing and heart-breaking to realize that the skills you picked up over the course of a career aren’t valued by the “real” world. Actually, you pick up many skills that really are valued, but many employers are too narrow-minded to see how those skills carry over: You’ve handled millions of dollars’ worth of accounts. You’ve supervised a wide variety of people in sometimes stressful situations. You’ve placed the well-being of your unit ahead of yourself. You’ve sacrificed.
Employers look at the job title, I think, and don’t see a correlation. No, you will not be building bombs, but you will be dealing with the same issues and struggles you’ve faced for years. It’s a shame, really. I know from personal experience that it’s hard to even format a resume coming from the military.
What drove Frank over the edge? Was he dealing with depression for years in the military? I didn’t see it, but I didn’t know him very long. Robin Williams always laughed and smiled – outward appearances can be deceiving. Was Frank only recently depressed, due to his job woes? Or was something like this bound to happen to him at some point? I wish I knew.
He was a good man. He was a kind man. He was a loving man. And now he’s dead.