(NewsNation) — Ask Misty Morris to describe her husband Anthony’s character and she’ll tell you about the night they met 15 years ago.
The 20-year-old was on a night’s leave from the local Army base when he worked up the courage to sit next to her in a bar along New Orleans’ Bourbon Street. But it was what he did afterward that got her attention.
“That night that I had met him, I was having some type of issues with my car. … He didn’t leave my side,” she remembers. “It was really important for him to make sure that I got home safe, (even though) it was late and I was a stranger.”
In 2021, it was that same protective instinct, deep into who Anthony was, that Morris saw flash in his eyes as he realized he almost had killed her, in the moments before he left their family home for good.
“He called the police on himself. … And my husband ran away because the reality became too real of what he did,” she said. “He realized, even though his mind was gone, like, ‘This is my wife and these are my kids. They need help. I made a mistake.’”
Anthony Morris is one of the more 30,000 veterans who have died by suicide since 2001. It’s the devastating result for many who came back broken after war.
Morris asks: This Memorial Day, remember veterans who die here, too.
“They put so much into society and sacrificed so much and they come home so sick, so mentally sick,” Morris said. “They don’t get the care they need, and it’s the husbands and wives and kids who suffer.”
Those sacrifices included missing the birth of his son during his first deployment to Afghanistan in 2007. It included living in different states than his family and long commutes as he moved up in his career and changed units.
But the sacrifices were never more present than in the last years of Anthony’s life, as the 35-year-old battled with severe anxiety, dissociation and panic due to PTSD that came to a head during his fourth deployment to the Middle East.
It was 2018. He was a seasoned soldier, with several physical injuries to prove it, including hearing loss and vision problems, tension headaches and severe arthritis in his knees.
“He was actually in two battles where people lost their lives, and he dragged men to safety,” Morris said. “He wasn’t really in the condition to go (again).”
Yet he was offered a promotion to change units. He would be the “old” man among young, inexperienced soldiers. When that unit was called up, he felt like he had to go to protect men who reminded him of himself, she said.
Then something happened that broke him: A friend who was joking around tried to pick him up from behind and flip him.
“Something kind of snapped in my husband’s head,” Morris said. “He went into some type of attack mode … basically, physically hurt the person that did it without thinking about it.”
That moment was the end of Anthony’s career — and in many ways, Anthony himself. He was taken to a military hospital in Germany, then went into the Wounded Warrior project for a period.
Morris says what followed was a cycle of heavy medications, multiple visits with VA doctors and, ultimately, a failed treatment.
“I’m not going to lie, he stayed messed up 90% of the time,” Morris said of the year and a half he lived after the last deployment.
He became emotionally fragile, she recalled, crying one moment and extremely angry the next. There were several times he would leave, only to be found weeks later by police in another city. She even had to have him forcibly hospitalized multiple times.
“He started to hallucinate,” she said. “Every time he told the VA that he was depressed … they would just add more medication or change the medication he was on. And it just made him feel worse, because he felt like is he ever going to be able to live without being on this medicine? Is he ever going to feel normal again?”
Tragically, that never happened. In August 2021, while hallucinating, he attacked Morris with a knife in front of their kids. When he realized what he was doing, he called the police on himself and fled. He was found dead in a motel days later.
At his funeral, a video was shown of him playing his ukulele, a snapshot of the carefree dad and husband he had been.
“Even though he was so disconnected, and I didn’t know what was going on with him, and he didn’t know what was going on with him — he was still that guy,” Morris said.
“My husband did incredible things for his fellow man, this country. … I want him to be remembered as a hero,” she added. “I don’t want suicide to be his only story.”
If you or someone you know needs help, resources or someone to talk to, you can find it at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline website or by calling 800-273-8255. People are available to talk to 24/7.