22: more than just a number; It’s the number of veterans who commit suicide on a daily basis

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By Leigh Ann Rutledge

Accent Editor

 

The number “22” could mean one day over three weeks or two less than two dozen.

To the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and veteran’s families and friends,   22 represents the number of veterans committing suicide each day, according to a report released in 2010.

A local man is one of the 22.

Rick Kellogg Army WEB
The photo above shows Rick Kellogg, a Carrollton High School graduate, when he was serving in the United States Army.

Rick Kellogg grew up in Mechanicstown playing baseball and basketball. He was raised by his mother, Deanna Kellogg, with his siblings, Bob Long, Rebecca (Long) Moore and Ryan Kellogg.

He played baseball and basketball during high school, attended dances and proms and graduated with the Class of 1992. Rick joined the United States Army the summer after graduation.

He spent four years with the 82nd Airborne in North Carolina, Washington and spent a year in Korea. After he finished his service, he remained active in the National Guard, serving a total of 17 1/2 years of military service.

“Everyone loved Rick,” Rebecca said. “He was always cracking jokes and pulling pranks. We never heard anyone say anything negative about him.”

After being released from the service, Rick moved to Canton and began attending Kent State University studying criminal justice. Moore said he wanted to work for the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) or the US Marshals.

A friend in Flagstaff, AZ, told Kellogg the police department was hiring and he moved to Arizona. He attended the Police Academy for three months, graduated and was hired as a police officer in Flagstaff in 2004.

Within two months of his hiring, Kellogg was deployed as a member of the National Guard, spending 15 months in Iraq. According to his sister, Rick told her even though he hadn’t had police training in the military, they told him his police academy training was more than sufficient. He was responsible for helping train Iraqi policemen.

“Before he was deployed, Rick was gung-ho to help them have the same freedoms as we did,” Moore stated.

He served as a platoon leader and lost two men within the first nine months in Iraq.

“He was training someone in a new position and was not sitting in his regular seat in the Humvee,” Moore explained. “The man in Rick’s seat was killed. This happened twice.”

Moore says Rick felt responsible for the two men who lost their lives. She said when he came home on leave, he drove to Walter Reed Hospital to visit another soldier in his platoon who was injured.

“That was Rick. He always put others first,” Moore said. “He was always the first to pitch in when someone needed help. Everyone loved him.”

After leaving Iraq, Rick returned to Flagstaff and continued his work with the police department. He also worked on a military base in Beaumont as a recruiter.

In 2010, Kellogg was chosen to attend a five-week sergeant class in Kentucky. At this time, Moore called and told Kellogg she wanted to visit him in Kentucky. He told her he would be too busy during training and no visitors were allowed.

Moore said, “I remember before he went to the training, he said he didn’t have a soul. He talked about how some of the things he had to do in Iraq were really hard on him.”

Kellogg completed the training in March 2010 and was voted an “honor graduate” by his fellow officers involved in the training session.

That was his last training and the last award he received.

Rick ended his life April 4, 2010. He was 35 years old.

“We heard so many stories during his funeral,” said Moore. “They said he was the last person they expected to do this.”

The family heard how well liked the man was who ran marathons, loved the outdoors and loved riding his Harley Davidson.

“He made an impression on everyone,” Moore said. “So many people called him their best friend. He had so many true friends.”

Friends, Moore now knows, knew he was suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) but his family did not. Moore imagines Rick would not want his family to know, he wouldn’t have wanted to feel weak; he wouldn’t have wanted to be thought less of.

“In hindsight, we should’ve noticed he was not himself when he came home on leave,” Moore said. “I look at pictures we took, he was not smiling in any of them.”

Shaking her head, she explained this was not like her brother. “He was always happy,” she said. “When he was living in Canton, I came home different times to find all the items on my walls hanging upside down.”

After his death, Moore said the Army reached out to the family for a grief study for families of veterans who take their own lives. She participated in the study.

“If we can save one family from having to go through this…” Moore said. “There is a stigma attached to suicide. People treat it differently like the grief is different.”

Pausing, she continued, “I hope they can figure out a way to help people better.”

Kellogg was buried in the Veteran Section of Citizens Cemetery in Flagstaff. Moore said his funeral was attended by hundreds of people.

“Along the procession, there were police cars, fire departments, emergency medical service people, all honoring Rick,” stated Moore. “Freedom Riders participated and, one of the riders told me he participated in over 200 funerals and had never been to one where a general attended. We had a general call and ask if he could attend Rick’s funeral.”

Moore and her family will never know what actually caused Rick’s actions. “He had plans, he had a plane ticket, concert tickets,” Moore noted, tears in her eyes. “He was a hard worker who made his own way in the world. It is the most devastating thing. It causes so much guilt in the family.”

Moore urges people to watch for changes in veterans, such as personality changes, withdrawal and less communication or turning to drugs and alcohol.

“Everyone said he was simply the best,” Moore said quietly. “I wouldn’t want him to suffer but I wish he was here.”

The family is assisting with the SAVE22 event scheduled May 7 in Carrollton to bring awareness about suicide in veterans and active duty military personnel.

The family requests anyone wishing to make a donation in Rick’s memory, should contribute to the Carroll County Vet’s Club on Brenner Rd., Carrollton.