CHARLOTTE, N.C. – When the towers fell, Marine Veteran Bobby Grey stood.
Grey was a senior in high school when the Sept. 11 tragedies shook the nation. He enlisted in the Marines and within a year, he was in a war zone.
“Our job over there was to guard the Jordanian-Iraq border,” Grey said.
He was ready to serve but he wasn’t ready for the car bomb.
“When stuff like that happens, you're never prepared for it,” Grey said. “I remember standing there watching the guys die at my feet. When you’re wrapping your friends up in body bags and putting them in the back of Humvees, it still doesn’t feel real.”
Grey eventually returned to North Carolina and met and married his wife Kia. But his previous life always in the back of his mind
“I won't ever forget the sights, the sounds, the smells of Iraq,” he said.
Those smells came back with a bang while he was just pumping gas.
“I got the smell of diesel fuel,” Grey said. “I just started cussing and screaming at everyone in the parking lot.”
But after that episode, he wouldn't talk about it with his wife
“You feel threatened with losing your career in the military so you kind of just stuff that stuff down,” Grey said.
Kia refused to let him hide his anxiety away from her.
“I knew deep down that there was something going on,” she said.
Kia eventually convinced her husband to check in with the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA).
Bobby passed all the tests at the VA, including the cognitive brain tests.
“I passed them with flying colors,” he said.
Fast-forward to Memorial Day 2013. A day Bobby said he doesn’t remember.
“I'd never feared for myself but I was terrified of him that day,” Kia said. “The look I saw in his eyes.”
The two argued and Bobby left the house.
“She got a phone call from me,” Bobby said. “(I told her) I love you, I always will and I'm sorry… Something inside of her told her to go look for me.”
Kia went to the back of the yard and found Bobby hanging from a tree.
“I couldn't even touch his feet that's how high up he was,” She said. “So i knew he did not intend for anybody to save him.”
When EMS arrived to save Bobby, he had stopped breathing and barely had a pulse. In fact, Kia had to perform CPR until EMS arrived for help.
“Literally at that point thought he was already dead,” Kia said. “There was no help at all… I just sat there and held him until the paramedics got there.”
Grey was in a coma for six days. He woke up with no memory of what he'd done.
“I can promise you suicide was never an option,” Bobby said.
Doctors told Bobby that he had the four letters every combat veteran dreaded to hear: PTSD.
But Grey didn't want to be just another statistic. He worked on healing the hidden wounds. And now, he shares his story and diagnosis with whoever that would listen.
“It sounds crazy but my suicide attempt was the greatest thing that ever happened to me,” Grey said.
Bobby Grey has PTSD and a traumatic brain injury. The kinds of hidden injuries from war that most vets don't discuss.
All too often, the result of hiding those injuries can prove to be deadly. Every day, 22 veterans die from suicide. For every service member lost, there are 10 who attempt suicide.
If you or someone you know needs help, NBC Charlotte has a list of resources available on our website.
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