28 May 2022
Louisburg, N.C. — At the heart of all the fun that took place during Saturday’s First Fruits Farm Memorial Balloon Festival in Louisburg was an event that honored those who died in service to our country.
“The flags, the people, the veterans — it’s just all wonderful. It’s great for our country,” said attendee Sheila Colbert.
Sunday’s festivities are scheduled to include an event to bring awareness to veteran suicides. The United States Department of Veterans Affairs estimates more than 20 veterans die by suicide each day.
Major Benjamin Recla was a U.S. Army pilot and a graduate of West Point who later returned to the school as a civil and mechanical engineering instructor.
“To the outside world, Ben seemed to have it all,” said his wife, Kami Recla. “He was super bright. He had a great career.”
But what people could not see was the depression Ben Recla was living with.
“He had thought about suicide a lot throughout his life,” Kami Recla said. “That was a pretty constant theme, he told me in his suicide note.”
In February 2016, Kami Recla said he took his own life.
“It was shocking,” she said. “It was something he did not share with me or publicly.”
Benjamin Recla kept his depression a secret through deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.
“Just living in a dangerous place, where people are actively trying to kill you has a huge impact,” Kami Recla said.
Kami Recla believes her husband did not share what he was going through for fear it would hurt his military career or that he would be grounded.
“He loved all that so much, he did not want to risk giving it up by getting help,” she said.
Sharing this heartbreaking story is not easy, but Kami Recla said other military members have told her it has inspired them to get the help they needed.
“In Ben trying to preserve this career and this job he loved, he lost it all,” Kami Recla said. ” I just encourage those who are struggling to just speak out loud. Just to say something out loud. There is so much support.”
If you are a veteran or know one who is in crisis, the VA has a 24-hour hotline available with confidential help. That number is 800-273-8255