NEW LONDON, Conn. (The Day) — The family of a Marine Corps veteran who died last year wants the government to develop a standardized reentry program for soldiers returning from combat before they leave the military.
Family members of Tyler Reeb, a decorated Marine who grew up in New Canaan, Connecticut, have been talking with state and federal lawmakers about how such a program is needed to help veterans fully reintegrate into civilian life, The Day reported.
Tyler Reeb killed himself in October at his home in Richmond, Virginia. He was 34.
“We transform civilians into soldiers,” said Tyler Reeb's uncle, Chris Reeb, of Weston, Connecticut. “We have to transform these soldiers back to civilians.”
Tyler Reeb did three overseas combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. He became a sniper, led more than 100 combat missions and was honorably discharged in 2015 just after being promoted to staff sergeant.
Chris Reeb and his nephew's other family members, including his parents, Jaymie and Michael Reeb, want the standardized reentry program to take place before service members leave the military. It would be an analogous counterpart to Marine Boot Camp, and take just as long — 13 weeks.
The military provides guidance to service members before they return to civilian life, but it's not enough, said Chris Reeb.
Tyler stayed with his uncle for about six months while waiting for a new job to start with the State Department after he left the Marine Corps. Chris Reeb said that he checked in with his nephew about whether he had thoughts of harming himself, and that Tyler said he didn't and would never take that path.
“And yet I could tell you that he slept with a loaded pistol under his pillow every night," Reeb said, "They never turn off. They're always on, always prepared.”
Reeb said that in hindsight there were maybe other signs that his nephew wasn't doing as well as he said he was. Tyler drank heavily, Chris Reeb said, but never missed work or lagged on his responsibilities.
“We all missed this and the reality of it is, there's got to be a ton of other people out there like this,” he said.
Reeb said the family is soliciting input on how to structure the reentry program and what should be included but know that participants should be provided with strategies and resources to address and cope with post-traumatic stress.
Chris Reeb attended the State of the Union address this month as a guest of Democratic U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal.
"I think we have people's ears," Reeb said, of the family's effort to create the reentry program. “We have to stay in their ears.”
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