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Remembering David West during Mental Health Awareness Month

Dad Peter West wrote about his son, David West, a Lance Corporal in the United States Marine...
Dad Peter West wrote about his son, David West, a Lance Corporal in the United States Marine Corps, who took his own life in 2014.(Provided by Family)
Published: May. 26, 2021 at 7:26 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - As many of you might know, May is Mental Health Awareness Month.

Dad Peter West wrote about his son, David West, a Lance Corporal in the United States Marine Corps, who took his own life in 2014. Not a “new” case, but Peter said the pain doesn’t ever go away.

“This picture was taken in August of 2014 on the beach at St. George Island where we vacation every year,” Peter said. “As his father, it breaks my heart to realize the depths of pain he was experiencing in this photo and in the days leading up to October 21st, 2014. David loved the water. He loved to fish. He always made sure he was with us on this family trip. I am showing you this picture now because of his smile—beaming, wide, infectious.”

Peter said he can’t stand hearing about anyone intentionally killing themselves. The recent story of 18-year-old Houston Finley in Statesville hit him hard.

Houston’s mom reached out a month after her son took his life. He was a smart, hard-working, athletic kid, and she said she had zero warning signs. She asked, please, to share Houston’s story on Facebook and on WBTV News. She wanted attention on her son’s death in an attempt to wake the rest of us up about the mental state of teenagers. They think death is an option, Ginger said. And once it’s done, it’s done.

Something Peter knows all too well.

“The sadness for me of late is the number of suicides that seem to be taking place,” he said. “Maybe I am hypersensitive to those stories, but it just seems to be more. That’s why I’m writing you. David was in the USMC. His commanding officer recently commented that three Marines committed suicide within three years of David doing so. This needs to stop.”

Though time helps, Peter said, it doesn’t fully heal.

“It is hard to believe it has been seven years since David died,” Peter said. “His mom, Tammy, and his sister Chelsea, and I… and the rest of our family… have learned that it is a grief that never goes away. We fix our eyes on Jesus. I thank God every day for my son, for the impact he had on my life, and so many others. We all miss him every single day and are constantly seeking ways to tell his story in the hopes it doesn’t make others make the same choice.”

Because of David’s military background, Peter says their focus has been on veterans.

He and his family have partnered with Stop Soldier Suicide and St. Michaels Airborne Chapter to host a 5k on September 11th in Conover, in Catawba County. All proceeds will be divided between the two groups.

Find out more, here >> https://tinyurl.com/FBVetSuicide5k

“On average, 22 veterans a day take their own lives,” Peter said. “It’s difficult for them to reach out for help for multiple reasons. We want them to know help is available. The slogan we’ve used since David died is ‘Don’t Let Your Story End’.” That’s our goal for this race: To assure men and women like David know help is available and personal journeys don’t need to end.”

If you’re reading this and questioning your own life - for any reason - please call the National Suicide Hotline. Number is 1-800-273-8255. That line has free, confidential support through, 24-hours a day, 7-days a week.

Thank you, Peter, for sharing your son and trying to make a difference.

-Molly

PS: More on the first charity >> https://stopsoldiersuicide.org/

PPS: More on the second >> https://www.stmichaelsallairbornechapter.com/

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