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The pain of Memorial Day for the father of a soldier lost to suicide

Guest Commentary

I found myself conflicted while honoring my son’s service. While I am proud and honored that he gave so much to the service, I am also angry for the time lost that could have been spent with friends and family. I can't help (perhaps selfishly), wondering if it in any way contributed to his untimely end.

There are statistics that concern me, and I can’t shake those feelings. We can only speculate at this point, but I will always wish that he hadn’t enlisted. He passed three short months after fulfilling his four-year tour.

I don’t think it would be a wild assertion to suggest that there was a “disconnect” with those he loved and cared for over those years. Phone calls, emails, video chats and short visits with his family and friends couldn’t replace the connection of real-time hugs, laughs and genuine deep conversations.

This was especially true with Donovan, who held his feelings, emotions, hopes and fears very close to the vest.

I missed his presence those four years terribly. We all did. Now his absence is unbearable. The truth is it feels like he went into the Marines and never came back. If I knew he only had 24 short years to share with us, I would have fought tooth and nail for him not to serve.

Donovan was so much more than a Marine, yet those four years represented one-sixth of his life, and heavily defined him as an adult.

Service doesn’t benefit everyone the same, and that’s OK. Is it hard to imagine that such an experience at a pivotal time of development could adversely affect some, while nurturing and strengthening others?

Outwardly, Donovan was the epitome of a Marine: Silent, strong, fearless and uncompromising. Behind the uniform, however, was my boy — complete with insecurities, uncertainty and perhaps with an overwhelming fear of weakness or failure.

I was a dissenting voice when he enlisted, and I can’t help but wonder “what if?”

I am fully aware of the many who have lost loved ones while serving, and who may have a completely different opinion. This opinion is my own and it is my cross to bear.

I apologize if it offends anyone who may view it as disrespectful to the service in any way. That is not my intention.

I am grateful for the military and the sacrifice veterans have made for us all. This day is to honor them, and I have.

I am also honoring my son, the man behind the uniform.

RIP Donovan James Lovins.


Douglas Lovins writes from Tallahassee, Fla., where he mourns the Dec. 27, 2020 suicide of his son, Donovan James Lovins, a U.S. Marine veteran.

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