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StoryCorps: This Memorial Day, Remembering The Overlooked Heroes

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Cathy Sprigg with her son, Army Spc. Robert Joseph Allen, at Tampa International Airport in 2010. At the time, Allen was headed back to Iraq after being on leave for the birth of his son.

This episode of StoryCorps originally aired in 2018.

When Army Spc. Robert Joseph Allen returned from a yearlong deployment in Iraq, his mother, Cathy Sprigg, was glad he was home safe.

Until she realized that he wasn’t. Sprigg said that her son — who once saw life with “his cup half full” — was now tormented by nightmares and the painful experiences he witnessed overseas.

In 2012, Allen died by suicide.

Particularly when it comes to honoring veterans on Memorial Day, Sprigg said she feels her son’s sacrifice is not viewed in the same way as that of fellow fallen soldiers who did not die by suicide.

“I feel like he’s not looked at as a hero because his wounds weren’t immediate and they weren’t physical,” she said. “Aside from losing my son, that’s probably one of the most painful things.”

Audio produced for Morning Edition by Jud Esty-Kendall.

StoryCorps is a national nonprofit that gives people the chance to interview friends and loved ones about their lives. These conversations are archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, allowing participants to leave a legacy for future generations. Learn more, including how to interview someone in your life, at StoryCorps.org.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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