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January 3, 2013

Soldier loses battle against ‘fierce, wicked’ demons

BEULAH, Mich. —  

Eric Lewis Harm survived combat in Afghanistan, but he couldn’t survive coming home.



The 24-year-old decorated Army combat veteran was found dead Dec. 28, an apparent suicide in Manistee County, four months after he left the military.

His family said combat trauma played a role in his decision to take his own life.

“He was just always a happy guy, always looking to help other people and do good,” said his aunt, Dwin Dykema. “He couldn’t deal with the things that he saw over there.”

The tragedy has Dykema and Harm’s parents wanting to help other veterans deal with the stress of life after combat.  “There needs to be more awareness,” Dykema said. “These guys don’t come home with a care package.”

Dykema spoke to Harm at a coming home party in August and asked her nephew how he was doing. She had to push to learn Harm was struggling.

“He said, ‘I’m doing good,’ and I said ‘No, how are you doing in your head?’” Dykema recalled. “He said, ‘Well, there are demons in there. They are fierce and they are wicked.’ He really didn’t want to talk about it.”

Harm was taking medications at the time of his death, including Seroquel, which is used to treat schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and major depressive disorder. MSNBC reports the drug is commonly prescribed to soldiers suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

“He kind of holed up in the last few weeks, blacked out his windows,” Dykema said. “His mom thought he was drinking.”

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta recently called suicides in the military an “epidemic.” The New York Times reported that suicide is now the leading cause of death in the Army, and that suicide rates of military personnel and combat veterans rose sharply since 2005.

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Glenn Puit is a reporter for The Record-Eagle in Traverse City, Mich. Contact him at  gpuit@record-eagle.com

 

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