About a year and a half ago, I wrote a column for this newspaper about my experiences with PTSD and how the University of South Carolina Beaufort Sand Sharks Veterans club helped unite fellow service members who may be struggling to cope with civilian life.
I spoke about how the deepest wounds can be the ones that are unseen, and that many aren’t fully aware of the severity of the problem until it is too late to act.
On March 31, Benjamin “Nick” Becker, 36, a U.S. Army combat veteran, a USCB student, SSV member, and my friend, succumbed to his hidden wounds and took his own life.
Nick was loved tremendously by all who knew him. Known best for his witty sense of humor and Cheshire-cat grin, he was always a bright light in the room. People naturally gravitated toward his magnetic charm. He was incredibly intelligent, compassionate, fearless and had a true warrior spirit.
Nick was one of the first friends I made at USCB.
He and I had similar backgrounds in terms of the service.
He was assigned to a U.S. Army Stryker Unit from 2004 until 2010 and the U.S. Army Reserves from 2010 until 2012. Similarly, I was assigned to the Marine counterpart, 2D Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion from 2004 until 2007 before leaving the Marines in 2012.
I do not always seem approachable, but Nick saw right through my grizzled demeanor from the beginning. There’s an old saying that war veterans can recognize the “thousand-yard stare” in the eyes of a fellow vet so perhaps he saw that I was struggling, too.
We bonded while exchanging a few war stories, often, as those who have seen the worst do, making light of sometimes darker subject matter. It was cathartic for both of us to share our toughest experiences, knowing that we were safe to fully express what we were going through without a fear of social repercussions.
Nick helped me a lot.
I wish I could have helped him more.
While I had no problem committing to SSV community outreach efforts on my own, it was always an added bonus to discover that Nick was going to attend the event. There was never a dull moment when he was around. Even while picking up trash after festivals in Old Town Bluffton, Becker would always manage to find some cold brews for the group to enjoy. He was always a people-pleaser who was never afraid to roll up his sleeves.
Above all else, I admired his moral character. He was a fellow proponent for the sciences, secular humanism, skepticism, globalism, liberty, and justice. Like me, he despised hypocrisy and he always made sure to practice what he preached.
He was a friend to all and a protector of the weak.
While we shared many similar views on politics, religion, philosophy, business, and ethics, I most enjoyed it when we were at odds. His sharp intellect, vast knowledge, and life experiences often challenged my most stringent beliefs. I will truly miss having that challenge.
And now he’s gone.
Funeral services will be at 2 p.m. April 6 at Beaufort National Cemetery with military honors.
I’m speaking at a USCB memorial the next day in the Campus Center, Room 105. I and others plan to share their favorite funny stories about Nick. He loved to make people laugh.
I urge all of you to keep fighting for the ones who have already fought for all of us.
When the troops come home and the media coverage fades, the war isn’t over — not for everyone.
Stay vigilant to veteran organizations like the PTSD Foundation of America (ptsdusa.org/support-u/make-a-donation/) — donate, volunteer, and keep reaching out to those you suspect might be suffering in silence.
Do it for guys like Nick.
Brian Vosicky is a Marine Corps veteran who served in the Middle East, Europe and Africa. He a graduate of the University of South Carolina Beaufort. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.