“I grew up in a small town south of Pittsburgh. I enlisted in the Marine Corps two days after I graduated high school. I wanted to be infantry. I love being outdoors, and I wanted to shoot guns and blow stuff up. I did it for four years. Infantry is rough on your body, on your family, on your life. I left the Marines and joined the police department. I got the itch to go back to the military and my best friend talked me into going the Air Force route this time. I re-enlisted in 2011.
“Being in any sort of law enforcement right now is tough. We feel it. I lean into my Lord, and I do my job with righteous intentions in my heart. I stand behind the Constitution and I know the majority of people out there support us and our American values of integrity, honor, courage, commitment and love for our fellow countrymen. I think it’s as simple as if you see a guy or girl in uniform, give them a head nod or a handshake. Support means so much right now. We aren’t asking for anything else. I have three girls at home – ages 8, 6, and 3. We all want to go home to our families at the end of the day.
“My wife was a police officer, too. She was the other half of me. She was the most confident, positive person I’ve ever met. She loved being a military wife. She grew up an Army brat. She was so proud of my service, of her service. She was so strong – mentally and physically tough. And she was such a great mom. She was pregnant with our fourth baby when she miscarried. Two weeks later, on June 12, 2015, it was like a fluke. She lost a silent battle with Postpartum Depression (PPD) and she took her life. I wish I would have known the signs. People think after you have a baby it’s supposed to be all puppies and unicorns and rainbows. But it isn’t always, and especially after a miscarriage. It is okay to be sad, but talk to someone, talk to anyone. I wish I would have seen it. I would have stayed home from work that day. I think our military spouses are especially at risk for PPD. They are so often in a new town, and on their own during deployments. Reach out to them. Make sure they’re okay. And if it’s you, admit you need help. There is absolutely no shame in that.
“I have always been the one who knows exactly what to say. And when my wife passed, I didn’t have any words. But my squadron, my unit, circled the wagons around me and the girls. That is the brotherhood and sisterhood of the military. It’s like that with law enforcement, too. They don’t just say, ‘let us know if you need anything.’ They show up. From my commanding officer down through the enlisted structure, they rallied around us. It’s a true measure of their character. When my chips were down, during this horrible time, they never ceased to support me and my girls.
“I was at a funeral recently, and during the eulogy the commander said, ‘When you get thrown against the grindstone, it can either tear you apart, or it can polish you.’ Her death has made me stronger. The pain of suicide is thrown on the survivors. It’s broken me in half, but it’s made me stronger. I’m telling her story – our story – because we have to talk about PPD. We have to raise awareness. These demons will always attack you. You have to continue continue working through it. You have to keep fighting.”
Help this family raise awareness of PPD by donating to their campaign here: https://www.gofundme.com/shelanesrun5K