Chris “Cooch” Couitcher 10/12/1982 – 10/18/2014
I really don’t even know how to start this post. I’m usually not speechless, but I can’t figure out how to start this. I’ve stared at this stupid page for way too long, and I figure if I start typing eventually I’ll figure out what to say next. I guess I can start at how I came to this point.
Tuesday I was tagged on Facebook by a Marine buddy. I got the notification on my phone and figured it was something funny, or a crazy video. I was greeted with the obituary of one of the Marines I deployed to Afghanistan with. I saw his face, read the first line and I lost it. I was immediately overcome with emotion, and that doesn’t happen to me. I don’t really think of myself as someone who “loses it”… I can push back my initial feelings nine times out of ten. Really, up until this past summer while filming a documentary for the son of a fallen Marine I can barely think of the last time I cried.
Chris Couitcher or “Cooch” was one of the Marines who was recalled in 2009 to deploy to Afghanistan with us. He was one of those guys who stood out in the crowd not only because of how he carried himself, but his smile. I wouldn’t describe it as a conventional smile, it was almost a smirk but it was a big smirk. The wheels were always turning, and with his sense of humor he was always able to make us laugh during the worst of times. He had deployed to Iraq and since he was one of guys with deployment experience he was a guy we’d look to for advice and he was always happy to help out.
I was a newly promoted Corporal and his was one of the NCOs who led in a sort of unconventional way, a way I tried to mimic. He wouldn’t yell, he’d talk to you like a man, let you know what was up and that would be enough. Unless you really screwed up, anyway. He had a great laugh, and like previously mentioned he had an awesome sense of humor. Down time around him was always entertaining. He could dish it out and take it back. Our deployment to Afghanistan from October 2009 – April 2010 was his second deployment and if you go to war you leave a little bit of yourself there. Once we all got back, the recalled Marines all went back home to try to pick up where they left off. The fact of the matter is, they didn’t even need to be there. They were supposed to stay stateside. This is something that I will never get over.
I come from a long line of military men and women, and I have seen what war can do to those who survive it. It used to be called “Shellshock”, “Battle Fatigue” and even “Soldiers Heart”. Now, it’s called PTSD. Up until this week I hadn’t experienced how deadly it can be. It was an eye opener to say the least and made me truly do some soul-searching. When I was able to finally get a hold of myself, I texted my buddy Nick. He and I were in the same truck during missions, and he was very close to Cooch. I texted him and by his response I could tell he hadn’t been notified yet so I called him. It was painful, but talking to him to helped me and I think it helped him. We didn’t know what happened yet for sure, but deep down we knew. During the filming of our documentary for the film “For Joshua”, Danny and I were going to visit Cooch up in Michigan but our schedule got really tight and we weren’t able to get in touch with him. I can’t think of the “what if” there, but it’s hard not to.
Chris had been struggling with survivor’s guilt and PTSD, and everything else piled up on him. He couldn’t figure out how to deal with it. I don’t consider him weak, or any of that other crap that is stupidly associated with PTSD. Somehow that acronym is thought of in the military community as a weakness. The feelings you have are ignored because there are veterans out there with physical injuries and you down play it. I know I fall into this category. I know I have survivors guilt. How could I not? Everyone from the company I was deployed with has to have it in some form or fashion. Sgt Cesar B. Ruiz was killed less than a month into our deployment and I immediately thought, “Why him? He has a family. I’m single with no kids, why not me?”
If you are a veteran reading this, and you think some of those feelings apply to you go out and get some help. If you have military buddies who you think are struggling, reach out to them. Those who are silently suffering need our help, we are failing them and it has gone of for far too long.
I have got to the point where I feel like I need to do something about the ignorance that comes from PTSD not only in the military community, but just people in general. I’m not quite sure what I am going to do yet, but I promise this… Cooch will never be forgotten.