Just days before the nation honors men and women who have died while serving in the military, a family is grieving the death of a veteran who apparently committed suicide by jumping to his death from an apartment building.
Kirkland “Kirk” Russill, 31, jumped from the three-story building on the Jesse Street side. He was married and was the father of three children.
The incident occurred just before 3 p.m. on Tuesday, May 18, in a building located at 133 Park Avenue in the City of San Fernando.
He was a maintenance worker at the building and had worked there for about a year.
Gautum Deepak, a nurse who was caring for a patient in the building told the San Fernando Valley Sun/El Sol that he heard the man say a couple of words in a “panic manner” before jumping and then heard a “big thump.”
“It sounded like a bowling ball falling,” Deepak said.
Initially he didn’t see anything, but then “my patient started screaming” and when he looked outside, he saw the man—who was completely naked—bleeding from his head.
A building resident came out to render aid to the man and covered him with a towel before authorities and the ambulance arrived, he added.
Deepak was visibly shaken by the incident.
“I’m never going to forget that sound,” he said.
Building resident Robert King expressed sadness about the incident.
King said he often crossed paths with the man while he worked at the building or when he forgot the clicker to enter the parking lot.
“I often saw him as I was leaving for work and he was coming in,” King said, describing the decedent as a “quiet guy.”
“He didn’t talk too much, but he was very polite, very courteous,” King said.
“He seemed like a good guy, like a decent guy,” he added.
“That’s too bad. That’s sad,” King said after learning about his passing.
Veteran With PTSD
Russill was a Marine Corps veteran who completed three tours in Afghanistan, and suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
PTSD is described as a mental health condition triggered by a terrifying event, including combat exposure—one of the most common causes.
The Mayo Clinic reports symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event.
Studies indicate one in five Iraq and Afghanistan veterans suffers from PTSD or major depression.
Raul Barragan, Commander at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post VFW 3834 in San Fernando, lamented the death of a fellow veteran.
“It’s gut wrenching,” Barragan said. “It affects us all, because he’s a brother, a father, a son to someone and it could be any one of us, any day.”
In his view, PTSD is a common issue for veterans. Barragan estimates some 80-90% of those who have served are afflicted with it.
“Everybody has their own story, experiences, things that you see. You always have a little bit of PTSD,” said Barragan, who also served in Afghanistan.
“I know what it’s like out there. Everybody takes every event differently. It is definitely prevalent,” he added.
Just recently, Barragan said VFW 3834 started a partnership with Unite Us and Veteran Peer Access Network, that allows the post to connect veterans to a network of services, whether it’s food assistance, housing and shelter, or mental health.
“Now I have the ability to go through a program and reach out to these services and provide them with the veteran’s name and drive them to the respective organization,” said Barragan, who acts as a bridge between the veteran needing help and the appropriate organization.
“The VA is not always the answer; they’re busy. My job is to be the conduit to get the veteran where he needs to go,” he said.
After hearing about the apparent suicide of a fellow veteran, Barragan said he checked his membership to see if the decedent was part of the VFW and also asked his members to check on fellow veterans.
Barragan said even if you’re not a member of the VFW, they are always ready to help.
“We are veteran driven,” the post commander said.” Our goal is to help veterans get what they need. I just want to tell them, they’re not alone. There are organizations out there — the VFW, the American Legion.
“There’s a ton of veteran organizations that are resources, that are there to help. But we don’t know you need help unless you come to us.They need to talk, reach out, talk among their comrades.”
You can contact the VFW Post 3834 via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.