Marine widow speaks up about PTSD awareness

JACKSONVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – To his wife, Jerome “Chad” Lechlinski was a jokester, father to her two children, and the love of her life.

While the Marine was used to fighting in combat, on the inside he was fighting an internal battle that not even his family fully realized.

Chad took his life in his Jacksonville home June 4th, 2015.

His wife, Heather, said, “He just had such a war with demons in his head. It’s just not fair for anybody to have to deal with that.”

That’s why the Marine widow said she’s telling his story to try and help others suffering from post traumatic stress disorder.

“It’s tough. I wouldn’t wish this on anybody,” said Heather. “So if I can help one other family not go through what my children, his family, myself…what we’re going through, then that would be an amazing accomplishment.”

She said she wants folks to know that while it doesn’t get easier, there are others in the community who can help.

“It’s like a roller coaster. One minute we’re fine and thinking about the happy thoughts. The next minute honestly, I’m upset…I don’t have him. I just want to come home and talk to him, and he’s not here,” said Heather.

She also hopes that by speaking up about mental health awareness she can raise money in her husband’s honor for PTSD research.

“They’ve given their lives for us, can’t we do a little bit more to save them?”

Every 65 minutes a military veteran commits suicide, making that 22 veterans a day. 31 percent of those suicides were veterans aged 49 and younger

“If for one second you need help, do it. Don’t feel embarrassed. Don’t keep it to yourself. Ultimately, that’s what my husband did and it didn’t work out,” said Lechlinski’s wife.

Heather also mentioned that she never imagined going through something like this at 30 years old with two young children.

“I would just tell him that I love him. I miss him dearly, I would give anything to have him back. But I understand, I understand that from his standpoint how it was difficult. I just hate that he thought this was his only way out.”

A fundraiser has been set up for the Lechlinski family. For anyone interested in helping the family, donations are accepted at http://www.gofundme.com/helpforheathef.

Heather Lechlinski also said she is open to emails from the public and can be reached at hlechlinski@yahoo.com

Veterans Affairs has a list of resources for veterans and caregivers:

National Suicide Prevention Line 800-273-8255; press 1 to be routed to the Veterans Crisis Line.

Jacksonville Vet Center, 110A Branchwood Drive in Jacksonville; 910-577-1100 or 877-927-8387.

National Alliance for the Mentally Ill’s (NAMI) Coastal Division is specifically for families and loved ones caring for people recovering from PTSD and other mental health related issues. That number is 252-354-4722.

VA’s mental health website: mentalhealth.va.gov

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