Remembering a Hero from Brick
This tribute will have you in tears. Here's how you can celebrate the life of a man who did so much for our country and so many others, and perhaps help save another life from the ravages of PTSD.
Here's the letter written by Gary's sisters Rande Martinez, Jessica Williams, and Ashley Bush, sent in by Michele Kurc:
" Gary Bell wasn't just a guy you passed by on your way into a Wawa and forgot about 3 seconds later. He wasn't one of those guys that you'd glare at after waiting 4 seconds longer at a green light and sped by his black Nissan Titan. He was something more than your average bear...or Dragon.
His sisters recall that it was the little things that reminded them of their brother. Whether it was how he would eat a bagel with a half pound of cream cheese or stack an inch of peanut butter with some jelly between two slices of bread...he always proved he was larger than life. It was a rare occasion to have a cereal that was 'good' in the Bell house. The sisters knew that when their mother got them a prized box of Captain Crunch they had better get a bowl before Gary knew about it or suffer the sight of the empty box in the garbage can of their 3 bedroom house in Brick. And it wasn't that he was too lazy to find a pair of socks of his own; he just felt Jessica's were better...along with her last piece of bacon, of course.
All three of his sisters would say his natural talent was infuriating to them being that he made it look so effortless. Painting, writing, coaching, and playing football just came to him as if he waved a magic wand and became a pro overnight. Through all of these feats, he left pieces of himself everywhere and with everyone and for that, we are grateful.
After his reign of Prom King came to an end as a Brick Dragon, Gary took on another role in life that would forever change him. A Patriot at heart, Gary enlisted in the United States Marine Corps after the attacks on America on September 11, 2001. He would deploy twice with the Marines of 3rd Platoon, Easy Company, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment to Iraq and earn a Purple Heart for being injured while suppressing and eliminating enemy fire during the 'As Sadah Firefight' in Fallujah, Iraq.
As with many combat veterans, when Gary returned to US soil some of him was left in that desert. Having already one son, Riley, he and his wife, Jillian, welcomed a second son, Parker, shortly after his enlistment ended. With help from the 'Helmets to Hardhats' program, Gary got into the HVAC union.
On March 13, 2017, Gary became something no one would've ever guessed...a statistic. Those closest to him were not aware of the silent killer inside him. As of September 2014, 2.7 million veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan war have been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and/or a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).
If you are going to associate a number with Gary, it should be 17- the one he wore on the football field. 2- for his sons that he has left behind. 3 - for the sisters that he grew up with who desperately miss him. 4 - for the years of service to this great country. 8 - for the nieces and nephews who feel his absence. 34- for the years he spent as his parents' only son. There are many numbers that we can associate with Gary, but he was not the only veteran to give in to his inner battle that day. That cold day in March, the number for Gary was 22, for the number of veterans who reportedly take their own lives each day.
We are not ashamed of how our friend...son...brother...father...husband died. We are proud of him for fighting so hard for so long. So we choose to remember him for how he lived. He didn't take himself too seriously, he loved his family fiercely, and he was always willing to lend a hand...even when that hand was pushing your face into your birthday cake.
Our nation's heroes return home not only missing those who were once at their side in combat, but also a piece of them many never get back. Sadly that statistic is true... but it is only reported suicides. Those suffering from PTSD either lack the need to feel...become numb...or are numb and need to engage in actions that make them 'feel' again. They find ways to bring themselves up through high intensity activities like racing a motorcycle at 200 mph or top out their car on a windy, dark road. When you factor in these types of activities and add it to alcohol related incidences and/or drug overdoses, that reported number is a lot higher.
We need to let them know help is out there. We need to introduce them to programs aside from just the VA. These veterans are not in the 'take these pills and call us in 4 months' category. They need real help...help that is offered at programs like Operation Restored Warrior (ORW), a free 5-day program run by men who know what our heroes have encountered because they themselves have been in it too. This is great because it is Vets saving other Vets.
They need programs like Warhorse SCUBA, a program run by Vets taking other Vets into environments that silence the toxic sharks swimming in their brains. Through SCUBA, these vets are able to solely focus on nothing but swimming and breathing. Imagine a world you have never been in and have to keep moving and breathing to stay alive.
These programs and more can be discussed in detail through a local organization called Ma Deuce Deuce (MA22). As alumni of ORW, the MA22 team offers their network of organizations to help restore the hearts of our nation's heroes and have a new perspective on how to drop that 'ruck' our men came home with that was filled with depression, anxiety, dependency, and rage."
For more info, CLICK HERE or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This weekend, in honor of Gary Bell, and in the quest to help spread the word about PTSD, you and your family are invited to a Gold Outing and BBQ. It takes place this Saturday, June 17th. The Gary Bell Irons & BBQ will begin at Forge Pond Golf Course at 7 am then continue with a BBQ being held at the VFW on Adamston Road in Brick from 12:30 pm - 4:30 pm. Wristbands are $10 for adults, $5 for 14 and under, 3 and under are free. Wristbands will be available at the gate for purchase. Tons of great family things going on at the BBQ including live music, 50/50, bounce house, petting zoo, kid games, small gift auction containing sports memorabilia, awesome gift certificates to local businesses, corn hole tournament and so much more.
More from Brick: