Indiana man to attend State of the Union address

Jeff Sexton
Published: .
Updated: .

United State Senator Joe Donnelly (D-Indiana) invited a Randolph County man to attend the State of the Union address tonight in Washington DC.  Jeff Sexton of Farmland, Indiana is hoping the story of his loss will prevent future suicides in the military. 

America's darkest day prompted Jacob Sexton to serve his country.  

"Jacob as a young boy decided he wanted to join the military right after 9/11.  He was probably 7th or 8th grade," said Jeff Sexton during a satellite interview with WTHR-TV.

Jacob Sexton joined the Indiana National Guard and served in both Iraq and Afghanistan.  But, when he left the battlefield for a standard leave in Muncie, Sexton's personal struggles ended tragically.

"Everything seemed like it was going fine and dandy.  One evening he went out with his brothers and his friends out for dinner and a few drinks and a movie.  He asked for his brother's pistol and decided to take his life right there in the movie theatre," said Sexton.  "It's totally devastated our family.  Even until this day, it's an ongoing pain, from day to day.  At any time, you can fall right back into a depression.  It's hard to move on from it."   

Sexton said his son never talked about depression or suicide before taking his life.

"After the fact, after talking to some of his buddies and friends.  Putting two and two together everybody seen the signs.  But he wasn't telling one specific person that he was having a problem," said Sexton.

Senator Donnelly says the number of suicides in the military is a scourge.  In 2012, there were 349 military suicides.  There were 295 combat-related deaths.  Those grim statistics prompted Donnelly to introduce a bill in Jacob's memory designed to learn about problems before it is too late.

"Every soldier goes through a periodic health assessment. This would add some questions onto that health assessment so that a trained professional can take a look and see is this person struggling with any mental health challenges," said Donnelly on MSNBC.  "Secondly, it requires a front line supervisor for all the troops to let us know, give us a written report, are you seeing anything, are you detecting anything out of the ordinary.  So we can have that particular soldier who is struggling see a professional.  And third and equally important, it's all confidential.  So the people that serve don't worry about if you want to become a sergeant sometime, is this going to be on the record or keep me from moving up the career ladder.  So, we want to make it confidential and we want to make it easy for them and if they have challenges to see somebody and talk to somebody," said Donnelly.

"The military since 2009 has come a long way.  Being a veteran myself, there were the days of buck it up and move on and get over it.  We didn't realize the pain and suffering the troops were going thru," said Sexton.  "After Jacob, I realized these men and women are human just like everybody else."

Now, Jeff Sexton is able to move forward with fulfilling two important missions in his son's name.

"One mission is to help other military personnel fight this so their family never has to go thru what our family's been through.  And before he died, Jacob wanted to buy coats for children in Afghanistan.  So, every year we buy winter coats and ship them to the orphanages over there," said Sexton.