DENVER — A marriage of 17 years abruptly ended when U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Don Christy took his own life at Black Forest Regional Park near Colorado Springs.

His death on April 21, 2008, came nearly four years to the day after he left for a deployment in Iraq.

“There were some things that he didn’t talk about,” said widow Kristen Christy. “And when he came home he was different.”

The couple’s two boys, Ryan and Ben, were 14 and 12 at the time.

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Ryan began to self-medicate with street drugs at 16 but was able to get clean and start a career before disappearing in 2015.

“My oldest son’s been missing for 1,289 days today,” said Christy. “He left of his own accord … and if he had had years to mature, I think things would’ve turned out differently.”

Their youngest son Ben is now 23 and will graduate from the University of Arizona in May. But Christy says he has struggled.

On Ben’s 20th birthday, he called his mother in the middle of the night, leaving a heartbreaking voicemail.

“I miss dad so much,” he cried. “I can’t live without him. I can’t. I need him right now. I need him so much.”

Christy now uses that recording during speaking engagements about suicide at military installations across the country.

In 2018, she was named U.S. Air Force Spouse of the Year for her suicide prevention work.

She still has hope that one day Ryan will come home.

“And I’m hoping that maybe Ryan is watching,” Christy said. “And I hope that he knows that I love him. And as a mom, I want to know that he’s okay.”

Christy says she shares her family’s story as an example of just one suicide’s lasting impact. “Because there is healing in telling the story, whatever story that may be,” she said.

If you need help, contact Colorado Crisis Services at 1-844-493-8255 or coloradocrisisservices.org, or text ‘TALK’ to 38255.

The National Suicide Prevention Line is 1-800-273-8255.

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