Marine Corps veteran and filmmaker Dustin Jones reflects on the suicide epidemic among veterans through the lens of his former comrade, Bill Kirner. Bill and his wife, Ashley, met in Hawaii just before his first deployment to Afghanistan. Nine months and several handwritten letters later, the couple eloped after he returned from Afghanistan.
Fast forward to the fall of 2018. Bill and Ashley have been married seven years and live in North Wales, Pennsylvania. The transition from sun and sand in Hawaii to the overcast skies of Pennsylvania mirrors the transition of Bill and Ashley’s relationship from young and in love to dealing with the harsh realities of life after service and Bill’s post-traumatic stress.
Behind his unkempt hair and beard hides a man who has been battling with suicide and depression, symptoms of his PTSD that have controlled his life since leaving the Marine Corps. In December 2017, his father, who served in the Navy, passed away, pushing Bill into a deeper depression. One year later, Bill quit his job working in the film industry and began isolating himself.
In January 2019, Bill admitted himself to an in-patient Veterans Affairs (VA) facility in Coatesville, Pennsylvania, about an hour away from home, for an extensive nine-week treatment program in hopes of saving not only his marriage, but his life. After leaving the VA, Bill works to apply what he learned in treatment to continue to move forward in life, with Ashley still standing by his side.