Homeless and depressed, Sean Duvall wandered the streets of Blacksburg, each step taking him closer to suicide.
In his backpack he carried a final note to his family and a crude, homemade gun fashioned from a piece of steel pipe, a shotgun shell and a nail rigged as a firing pin. For seven days, he contemplated killing himself.
Then, on the night of June 8, 2011, Duvall turned to the country he had served.
A veteran of the U.S. Navy, Duvall called a toll-free crisis line the Department of Veterans Affairs offers as a confidential resource for troubled veterans.
Duvall was looking for help. Instead, he found himself in federal court, charged with possessing a destructive device and three related felonies that could send him to prison for 40 years.
For the government to promise a veteran help through a confidential crisis line, then betray that trust by using his own words to convict him, is more than just unfair, Duvall’s attorney argues.
“This is dishonorable,” federal public defender Randy Cargill wrote in court papers. “It is wrong; it is unfair; it shocks the conscience.”
This is a sad tale that keeps playing out across America. It it will only serve to stop Veterans from reaching out for help.