'He Had A Very Sad Heart': This Memorial Day, Remembering The Overlooked Heroes A mother's once "happy-go-lucky" son took his own life in after serving in Iraq. Because of this, she feels he's not seen as a "hero," like his fellow soldiers — which makes her loss more painful.
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'He Had A Very Sad Heart': This Memorial Day, Remembering The Overlooked Heroes

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'He Had A Very Sad Heart': This Memorial Day, Remembering The Overlooked Heroes

'He Had A Very Sad Heart': This Memorial Day, Remembering The Overlooked Heroes

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/613668913/614640449" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

On Memorial Day, we remember soldiers who were killed while serving their country. But those who have died by suicide are often overlooked. Army Specialist Robert Joseph Allen took his own life in 2012 when the suicide rate for active duty troops was at its highest - more soldiers dying from suicide than from combat. Allen grew up in a military family. At StoryCorps, his mother, Cathy Sprigg, sat down to remember him.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CATHY SPRIGG: He was a happy-go-lucky kid. When he was in T-ball, one time he hit the ball, went to second base and then turned around and said, Mom, I made half of a home run. That was kind of how he looked at life, his cup half full. He always wanted to be in the military. Even back then, I mean, we'd pass a convoy, and he'd just go nuts. So when he was 24, he enlisted and then was sent to Iraq for a year. And he told me some stories, but he said, there's a lot of stories that I can't tell you, Mom. He didn't sleep well. He had nightmares, and that twinkle in his eye was gone. He took his life August 2, 2012.

And, you know, as a mother, when your child's heart is full of joy, your heart is full of joy. And knowing what a dark place he must have been to do this is almost more than I could bear. Since then, I have his two sons that I help care for. His first son is 8. And not long ago, he asked me, how did daddy die? And I said to him, Daddy died from war because he had a very sad heart. You know, and hindsight is 20/20, but when he got back from Iraq, he got off the plane, and I thanked God that he made it home safe. I didn't realize that he didn't. And I feel like he's not looked as a hero because his wounds weren't immediate, and they weren't physical. And aside from losing my son, that's probably one of the most painful things.

(SOUNDBITE OF LUCIDDREAMZZZ'S "SOUNDS OF MY BASEMENT")

SIMON: That's Cathy Sprigg remembering her son Army Specialist Robert Joseph Allen, who took his life in 2012 while serving in the U.S. military. He was 27 years old. This interview will be archived with the rest of the StoryCorps collection at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.

(SOUNDBITE OF LUCIDDREAMZZZ'S "SOUNDS OF MY BASEMENT")

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