RIP Frank and Jeff

Standard

I was going to write about Frank Spivey again, anyway, and then I saw another news article shared on Facebook. This was from the police report on the events. Apparently after he got back from the 25 Club he put on his Blues before grabbing his rifle and shooting up Eagle Trace (I was right about the apartment complex being where Jody used to live – I just couldn’t remember the name the other night).  He fired a total of 23 shots. When they finally had to take him down it was a shot to the chest. He didn’t die immediately. He crawled back in to his apartment. They sent in a robot to verify, then went in and tried to resuscitate him. Maybe if he hadn’t crawled back inside he would have lived. I just hope he didn’t suffer too much. Hopefully he went in to shock and wasn’t in pain. He was a good man.

It’s nice to see all the comments on the AMMO pages. Lots of positive memories from people who worked for him. I wish he knew what kind of an impact his life had had. Maybe it would have saved him. Maybe if people knew what kind of pain he was going through they could have reached out to him, showed their support. Like I said the other day, we didn’t work together for long, but he was a good man. You heard (then and hear now) nothing but good things about the way he lived his life. Godspeed, Frank!

There was one negative poster the other day. This was somebody who didn’t know him. He shared the story with the interview with Frank’s wife and called him a loser. Lots of people jumped to Frank’s defense. I can imagine a time (in the not so distant past) where I would have felt the same way. But knowing Frank, and knowing that he was a kind, gentle soul, I couldn’t feel that way at all. It’s so easy to judge when we don’t know the circumstances. I think I’ll try to remember that! If this wasn’t somebody I knew I would have forgotten the story within a few hours. As it is I’m having a lot of trouble letting it go. Maybe if Frank had been an asshole it would be easy to reconcile.

He was the second guy I worked with who’s killed himself (yes, technically the cop shot him, but he himself called it suicide by cop). Jeff Culp was my sponsor at my first base. That was Nellis, the same place where Frank died. We used to go to the 25 Club after work even.

Jeff Culp was a big country boy from Oklahoma. When he picked us up from the airport he had on a big belt buckle and a bright red, white, and blue shirt. I don’t know much about the particulars of his suicide. He was a TSgt by then, and I believe he was in Germany. He shot himself at work in the bomb dump. It may have been after hours. I don’t know if he was in a storage structure, an office, or one of the shops. I just don’t know what happened with Jeff. I don’t know if he and his wife were having problems (or even if they were still married) or what. It sucks drawing a blank. He was a good guy, too, and deserves the honor of being remembered.

I’ve never considered suicide to be a coward’s way out like many people do. Aside from the fact that many people who do it are at least temporarily unbalanced; I think it also takes a huge amount of nerve. It’s just so unnatural. But more than anything is the fact that you’re are forcing yourself into the biggest unknown of all. If you’re a person of faith you probably view suicide as one of the ultimate evils you can commit. Do you really want to piss off God right before heading out to meet him? And if you are an atheist, then is nothingness really better than anything you can hope for the rest of your life? And if you are one of the many who are unsure, do you want to take the risk? You can’t come back from it, you know.

I’ve contemplated it myself at various times in my life. But I’ve only come close once. And that was in 4th grade, when my best friend said he was going to kill himself when he got home, so I decided to also. I wrote a note. I ran a belt up through the light fixture in our bathroom. I then realized that I would most likely break the fixture, and how in the heck could I explain THAT? I’m sure if I’d really wanted to I could have found a place to do it. My heart just wasn’t in it. Suicide pacts are pretty stupid. And then he showed up to school the next day like nothing had even happened.

The other times it’s been more of a fleeting thought. “I could just drive my car off this cliff” and that sort of thing. I’ve never tried, and with each passing day I find it much less likely that I ever would. I have a good life now, and a wonderful fiancé, and life is good. I just wish Frank and Jeff had been able to hold out for a better day, too.

RIP, brothers.

R.I.P.Frank Spivey

Standard

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.