Military mom urges Department of Defense to recognize suicide victims on memorials

- Gold Star mother Debra Reber remembers her son Marine Staff Sergeant Jeffery Reber who took his own life after more than a decade of military service.

“I spoke with him about 45 minutes before he shot himself,” Reber said. “I have played that conversation over and over again in my head wondering what I missed.”

While Reber thinks of her son everyday, what she really wants is his name engraved on a memorial wall at Rosie the Riveter Park in Long Beach.

“I want all military men and women to be recognized regardless of how they died,” she said.

But the memorial only features names of military members killed in combat.

FOX 11 spoke via phone with Laura Herzog who’s foundation, Honoring Our Fallen, maintains the memorial.

According to Herzog, names can only be listed on the plaques if they are published through the Department of Defense, which doesn’t recognize suicide as death in the line of duty.

“Suicide is a very delicate subject,” Herzog said. “I understand that she wants that, but not all family members who lose their loved one to suicide want to do that.”

Herzog said many military families are private about suicide.

But Reber believes her son’s post-traumatic stress disorder from two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan should be considered a war casualty.

“Even though he took his life and it was suicide I will never be ashamed to say that,” Reber said. “I’m proud of what my son’s done and been through.”

Reber has since started an online petition to change DOD policy.

She’s gathered more than 38,000 signatures.

Herzog said she’s working to get funding to get a plaque to memorialize those who lost their life due to PTSD, although she said it won’t have names.

 

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