Remembering an Angel:
by Kevin Caruso
The nation's top Navy officer, Admiral Jeremy Boorda, died by suicide on May 16, 1996, by a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He was 56.
Admiral Boorda was the first enlisted sailor to become the Chief of Naval Operations, a position he obtained on April 23, 1994.
Admiral Boorda was distraught because someone claimed that he was not authorized to wear two valor medals.
The issue seemed to be trivial. But for Admiral Boorda, it was a serious matter.
So serious, that shortly before he was to meet with the Washington bureau chief of Newsweek magazine, which was working on a story about the medals, he shot himself.
Former Admiral Elmo Zumwalt came forward the next day and indicated that he personally authorized Admiral Boorda to wear the medals.
There really was no controversy. And even if Admiral Boorda was somehow in error, it certainly would not seem like a big deal to most people.
But how most people feel is not relevant.
Each person reacts to problems in his or her own way. And when someone is depressed, he or she cannot possibly think clearly.
Most probably, Admiral Boorda was suffering from depression, and the "medal incident"
pushed him over the edge.
But aren't people in the military strong? Aren't they trained to deal with stress?
He was the Chief of Naval Operations -- How could he die by suicide?
Admiral Boorda was very strong, and very well trained, and from all accounts, deserved to be the Chief of Naval Operations. But he was also human. And anyone can die by suicide.
Just because someone is in the military or holds a powerful position does not make him or her immune from depression or suicidal thoughts or actions.
He was not weak. He was strong. He did not have a character flaw. He most probably suffered from depression and did not receive treatment.
People who die by suicide are not weak. The have a mental illness. Being weak and
being ill are two very different things.
He was indeed a very strong person. And he received very high praise from many prominent individuals after he died.
Defense Secretary William Perry called Admiral Boorda "a sailor's sailor," and said, "At
every stage of his career he put the interests of sailors and their families first."
Navy Secretary John Dalton said that Admiral Boorda was an outstanding leader and "he was loved by the people of the Navy, officer and enlisted alike."
Army General John Shalikashvili, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said, "The Navy
has lost a great Captain. I and so many others who have served beside him have lost a great friend."
Admiral Boorda is survived by his wife, Bettie, and four children.
What happened to Admiral Boorda could happen to anyone. Anyone.
If you are depressed or feel suicidal, then you need to get help.
Untreated depression is the number cause for suicide. So if you are depressed, please take action.
If you are suicidal you can call 911 or 1-800-SUICIDE.
Please get help. Get into counseling. Do whatever you need to do to get better.
And remember that depression is highly treatable. The vast majority of people who are treated for depression get better.
Depression is a medical condition that needs to be treated, just like any other medical condition.
So, if you need help, please get it now.