On June 12, 2016, the Kristin Rita Strouse Foundation celebrates its 15th Anniversary with a speaker event featuring Major General Mark Graham (Ret.) & Carol Graham.
As a military family spanning over 32 years, Major General Graham has served in several key command and staff positions in the United States, Germany and Korea; most recently positioned as the Commander of Division West (First Army) at Fort Carson, Colo.
Ten years ago, Major General Mark Graham and Carol Graham lost both of their sons within months - one to suicide, and one to an IED. Both young men were soldiers from a proud military family, yet they fought and died in very different battles. Kevin was a 21-year-old senior ROTC Cadet who battled depression secretly and discontinued his medication for fear that if the Army knew of his illness it would adversely affect his future career as a military doctor. The Grahams had no idea that Kevin’s depression was a matter of life and death and that he was showing the symptoms of suicide risk. Jeff was a 23-year-old commissioned lieutenant in the Army who died when an IED detonated during his service in Iraq.
On Sunday, June 12, 2016, The Kristin Rita Strouse Foundation played host to 250 friends and supporters. They heard these inspiring speakers share their journey through suicide and grief and their work today as leading advocates for increasing mental health awareness, reducing the stigma associated with mental illness, and ensuring that troops and civilians receive care with dignity on their road to health and recovery. .
Today, The Grahams are advocates for both civilians and soldiers who suffer with post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, and other mental health illnesses. The Grahams firmly believe “as an Army and as a nation, we must get in front of suicide, work to prevent it by action, not just figure it out after the fact.”
Together, The Grahams speak at conferences, seminars and workshops to help others survive grief and understand depression as well as to help prevent suicide. They are advocates for wounded Soldiers and their Families as they continues to speak out to raise awareness to the dangers of untreated depression, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).
Major General Mark Graham was a decorated two-star officer whose integrity and patriotism inspired his sons, Jeff and Kevin, to pursue military careers of their own. When Kevin and Jeff die within nine months of each other-Kevin commits suicide and Jeff is killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq-Mark and Carol are astonished by the drastically different responses their sons' deaths receive from the Army. While Jeff is lauded as a hero, Kevin's death is met with silence, evidence of the terrible stigma that surrounds suicide and mental illness in the military. Convinced that their sons died fighting different battles, Mark and Carol commit themselves to transforming the institution that is the cornerstone of their lives.
The Kristin Rita Strouse Foundation was established by Douglas and Sharon Strouse in response to the death of their daughter Kristin, on October 11, 2001. Kristin was a freshman at Parsons School of Design in New York City when she ended her own life.