Family, friends hope veteran's suicide leads to change - WSMV Channel 4

Family, friends hope veteran's suicide leads to change

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John Toombs (WSMV) John Toombs (WSMV)
MURFREESBORO, TN (WSMV) -

A Murfreesboro couple is preparing to bury their son, a veteran who served in Afghanistan.

John Toombs wasn’t killed in a war zone. He took his own life, but not before leaving a video criticizing the Veterans Administration.

"Earlier today I was discharged for trivial reasons,” Toombs said in his video post.

"I came for help and they just threw me out like a stray dog in the rain," the recording continues.

Toombs hanged himself on the campus of VA medical center in Murfreesboro. His body was found at 6:30 a.m. Wednesday by VA employees reporting to work.

It's the same facility, according to his father, that threw him out of an inpatient program for addiction and PTSD on Tuesday.

"And he made a comment that night to me, last time I saw him, ‘We're disposable,’" said David Toombs, John’s father.

"He said, 'We go over, we fight, we come home, we serve our country, we come home, we ask for help, and we're disposable,'" David Toombs added.

David Toombs said his son was doing well; he was six weeks into a 90-day program. He said his son was sent packing after missing two days of medication and openly criticizing a doctor.

"I guess they made an example out of me," John Toombs said in a social media post.

John Toombs had served in the 230th Signal Company of the Tennessee National Guard alongside Justin Watkins and Allen Chapman.

"When I saw the video, I broke down and cried. I could see the pain," Chapman said.

Chapman and Watkins said they also have struggled to get care from the VA.

"It makes you throw your hands up and say, ‘I give up,’" Chapman said.

"You know, we volunteer to go through certain things. Then when we come home, they hang us out to dry," Watkins said.

Watkins said the real war starts when soldiers get home. He said 22 veterans commit suicide every day.

"Not just for John. This is a cry for help for all of us. We're all hurting. Everybody in the military knows somebody who's taken their own life because they couldn't get the help they needed,” Watkins said.

"We owe it to John Toombs to be his voice,” Chapman said. "The veterans are crying out.”

John Toombs wanted his message and his frustrations to go public to help other veterans get the help they need.

"This has to end somewhere. These people aren't disposable," David Toombs said.

A VA spokesman emailed a statement, calling the suicide a heart-wrenching tragedy for everyone involved. He added the VA can’t go into further specifics about John Toombs’ care due to privacy rights.

The Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office said it is investigating the suicide.

John Toombs’ friends have set up a GoFundMe page and hope to establish a scholarship in his honor. Click here for more information.

Click here to read John Toombs' obituary.

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