Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Features

May 13, 2014

Hidden wounds

Veteran's suicide reveals toll of hidden scars

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) — Jacob Hutchinson wore the physical wounds of war. Jagged scars from an improvised explosive device that nearly tore off his lower legs. Precision-cut lines from more than 20 surgeries to repair the damage.

But it was the emotional toll from serving as a combat medic in Afghanistan that likely caused the 24-year-old National Guard veteran and Purple Heart recipient to kill himself on April 22 inside the Bloomington house a military organization had donated to him.

"Those wounds that he had were easy to see on the outside," Sela Gonlubol told The Herald-Times. "But his personality was larger than life, and that made the wounds on the inside harder to see."

Her last contact with Hutchinson was a text message asking if he still planned to visit her on Mother's Day. "Yes, ma'am," he replied.

Hutchinson graduated early from high school, enrolled in community college classes in Cedar Rapids, then joined the National Guard in 2008. He was the first in his family to enter military service. His mother said he found his place. "He had a purpose, a passion in his life," she said.

When members of his National Guard unit were scheduled for a stint in Afghanistan in 2010, Hutchinson was sent to San Antonio for medical training before being deployed.

On May 21, 2011, the National Guard released a photo of Hutchinson. He was in a hospital bed in Germany, just three days after the explosion, receiving the Purple Heart medal that's awarded on behalf of the president of the United States to soldiers injured or killed in the line of duty.

Four soldiers from the Iowa-based National Guard unit were injured when the 120-pound bomb blew up. Hutchinson had been scheduled to return home just nine days later.

Gonlubol told a reporter from the Cedar Rapids Gazette right after the accident that her son had two broken legs and a broken arm, but that he was hopeful and optimistic. "His legs will heal. He's an athlete, and he will be able to work with folks and have a good outcome. I'm very convinced of that."

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