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The parking lot suicides
Veterans are taking their own lives on VA hospital campuses, a desperate form of protest against a system that they feel hasn’t helped them.
Alissa Harrington took an audible breath as she slid open a closet door deep in her home office. This is where she displays what’s too painful, too raw to keep out in the open.
Framed photos of her younger brother, Justin Miller, a 33-year-old Marine Corps trumpet player and Iraq veteran. Blood-spattered safety glasses recovered from the snow-covered Nissan Frontier truck where his body was found. A phone filled with the last text messages from his father: “We love you. We miss you. Come home.”
Miller was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and suicidal thoughts when he checked into the Minneapolis Department of Veterans Affairs hospital in February 2018. After spending four days in the mental-health unit, Miller walked to his truck in VA’s parking lot and shot himself in the very place he went to find help.
“The fact that my brother, Justin, never left the VA parking lot — it’s infuriating,” said Harrington, 37. “He did the right thing; he went in for help. I just can’t get my head around it.”