TOLLHOUSE — In the midst of tragedy, friends and family of Josh Miller want to send a message about the effects war can have on the human spirit, and the subsequent risks for those who suffer from depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
A 2016 study released by the United States Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) confirms that an average of 20 veterans commit suicide every day.
This past Christmas, Josh was one of them.
Joshua Thomas Miller served as a Corporal and was a Landing Support Specialist in the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit in the Marine Corps from 2000 – 2004.
The unit, known as “The Pride of the Pacific,” is a “forward-deployed, flexible sea-based Marine air-ground task force capable of conducting amphibious operations, crisis response and limited contingency operations,” including special operations, according to the official website of the United States Marines.
Josh grew up in Michigan and moved to California after leaving the Marines, says his bereaved partner of five years, Megan Gorrell.
“He lived in the bay area until we moved to Tollhouse in 2014,” Meg continues. “Josh was working on developing technology that would make a difference to the entire planet. He was interested in things like ending hunger, our dependence on planet-destroying resources, and cleaning up the destruction we have already caused.” Josh was also a custom woodworker.
He disappeared on Christmas Day, leaving the Tollhouse home he shared with Megan around noon. Josh said he was going to the store, and that was the last time he was seen.
The oldest of six siblings and father to a son, Josh was located two days later in a remote area off of Big Creek Road, where he had taken his own life.
“Josh was one of the most intelligent people many have ever met,” Megan says. “He had compassion for everyone and always wanted to help. He wanted to bring positive change into the world and was actively pursuing that goal at the time of his passing.”
Megan wants people to understand that seemingly simple, everyday difficulties and common stress can trigger depression, leading to catastrophic results for someone who is already suffering from PTSD. That was the case for Josh, who family says struggled with the disorder since his return home from the military.
“The hardest thing about watching Josh dealing with his PTSD was that it took away from his happiness. He was fighting demons instead of enjoying his life. He was encouraged to seek help from all of his loved ones, but he did not. ”
In the most comprehensive study conducted by the military on suicide, VA researchers found that the risk of suicide for veterans is 21 percent higher than that of civilian adults. Veterans tend to have more suicidal ideation than others, and they are statistically more likely to take action on suicide.
“We would like people to know that if you are suffering from PTSD or depression, to please get help. You are not alone,” Meg says, speaking for Josh’s family, as well.
“If you know someone who is suffering, do everything in your power to get them the help and support they need. We never knew how deep his scars went. Most likely the people suffering will not show you.”
In the latest year for which data is available, veterans accounted for 18 percent of all suicides in America, even though they make up less than 9 percent of the U.S. population. The VA study shows that in 2014 more than 7,400 veterans took their own lives.
When it comes to Josh, the family emphasizes the importance of mental health awareness and having help available for those who may have PTSD.
“We also want to stress how the VA is not assisting our veterans to deal with the trauma that happens in war. They are failing them during service and after. We need change immediately.”
The study also shows that a majority of those veterans who committed suicide were not regularly using VA services, according to an article in Military Times.
Josh leaves behind his son Vincent, his mother Elizabeth, father Thomas, and five younger siblings, Jennifer, Sarah, Amanda, Steven and Michael, as well as a large family of aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews, along with partner Megan and her four children.
The family offers heartfelt thanks to the community for the outpouring of love, support, and prayers they have received, along with donations to an account for Josh’s son and the Marine’s final homecoming to Michigan. Megan also credits the Fresno County Sheriff’s Department and the deputies who worked tirelessly on the case. It’s what Josh would do.
“Josh helped everyone he could,” Megan remembers of the man she loves. “His happiest moments were when he spent time with his son, his family, when he was out in nature, and working on his projects.”
Josh’s father Thomas Miller posted on social media to say that his beloved son will be sadly missed and fondly remembered.
“Josh was very proud of his service in the Marine Corp and his service to our country. We are devastated that the demons he encountered in Iraq did not remain there but, instead, followed him home, never leaving him in peace.”
The family has set up an account with Michigan State University Federal Credit Union for anyone who may wish to make a donation toward expenses and Josh’s son, Vincent. The account is connected to PayPal and the email address is Amanda.Hissong@yahoo.com. The name of the account at MSUFCU is Memorial Fund For Josh Miller. A GoFundMe account has also been created.
If you or someone you know is suffering from PTSD, depression or has suicidal thoughts please contact the Suicide Prevention Line or The Veterans Crisis Line at (800) 273-8225. For Veterans, press 1. Or text 838255.