When the towers came down on 9/11, I sat with my young children in the living room of our log cabin home in Blanding, Utah, watching it unfold. I knew at the time I would lose one or more of my children to the inevitable wars that would follow. Darby had already lived in the Middle East with me for two years, and I believe he was particularly affected by what he saw that morning. As soon as he was old enough, he enlisted in the Army as an infantryman, virtually assuring he would see combat.
Darby's Stryker unit arrived in Iraq in December of 2007, just in time to be sent into one of the most intense and under-reported battles of the war. The siege of Sadr City raged on for months. Street fighting and rooftop combat were seemingly endless. Darby was a machine gunner whose job was to lay down suppressive fire as his unit moved through the streets. He performed hundreds of combat missions and was awarded a Bronze Star for his action.
In spite of being a soldier, Darby was a sensitive person. He was deeply hurt by the death of his squad leader and close friend, Kyle, who was killed by an RPG. It haunted him for the rest of his days.
Darby was a champion of the underdog, and his friends and battle buddies remember him fondly as the one you could always count on to do the right thing. Several of his mates have posted about an incident in Sadr City, when one of their men was killed by a bomb. The unit successfully tracked down the bomber and captured him. The angry, battle weary soldiers surrounded and closed in on the prisoner to exact revenge. Darby, outnumbered and outranked, fought off the entire unit, saving the prisoner's life and saving his unit from committing a war crime.
When Darby returned to America he married and soon had a son. It wasn't long before he was deployed again, this time to Afghanistan. I personally have not been able to learn much about him there. His army friends tell me he changed when he came home. He was diagnosed with PTSD and traumatic brain injury (again, RPG). Sullen moods, violent nightmares, and paranoia drove his wife to leave and take their two kids back to Utah. Darby was devastated.
To make matters worse, his body had simply worn out from grunt duty. Shoulder surgery, foot surgery, and the PTSD/TBI resulted in recommendation for medical discharge, and he feared he would lose his connection to the military family that had taken care of him for 11 years.
In October of 2014 Darby reported for a scheduled 30-day resident PTSD treatment at Trippler Army Hospital in Oahu, but was turned away. Four months later as he was processed for medical discharge, he cleaned his apartment and said goodbye to some friends on Facebook, then climbed into the bathtub and ended his life with a .45 to the head.