INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Veterans and loved ones gathered Saturday at the Indianapolis Sailing Club to honor a fallen Marine from Indiana.
Pfc. Deryk Hallal, a graduate of North Central High School, was killed in action in April 2004 in western Iraq.
He was a rifleman with the 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment based at Camp Pendleton.
He left college to join the Marine Corps nine weeks before he would have graduated, his mother said.
“Deryk said he didn’t want to waste one more day of his life doing something he didn’t really want to do,” Pam Hallal told News 8. “He wanted to help free the Iraqi people and fight for his country.”
Operation Set Sail, a non-profit organization that aims to empower veterans through sailing, hosted the ceremony honoring Deryk’s life, service and sacrifice.
His father, Jeff Hallal, spoke passionately about their family’s mission to raise awareness of challenges associated with combat PTSD and support military veterans struggling with symptoms of the sometimes debilitating condition.
“Honoring Deryk is wonderful but we also wanted to take this opportunity to continue the conversation about PTSD,” Jeff said. “We know that Deryk would want [his fellow veterans] to continue to live life to the fullest.”
Thirty-four members of Deryk’s battalion were killed in Iraq, according to Cpl. Jimmy Gentile.
At least 20 others committed suicide after returning from combat, he said.
Gentile was shot below the right ear during the Battle of Ramadi in April 2004 and experienced symptoms of PTSD, including severe anxiety, for years.
“I don’t think everyone understands how debilitating it is on someone [and] how much it takes away from their day-to-day life,” he told News 8. “It’s tough on the families as well.”
Gentile encouraged fellow veterans struggling with civilian reintegration to explore hobbies, relationships and career opportunities unrelated to their military service.
His faith, family, motorcycle and software engineering career helped him cope with anxiety and carve out a new identity after returning from Iraq, he said.
“[Serving in the Marine Corps] was a great part of my life,” Gentile told News 8. “I’m very proud of it. But I want to be remembered as a husband and father.”
Among the battalion members who committed suicide were friends who had camped out for a week in Jeff and Pam’s backyard in 2011 to honor Deryk on Memorial Day.
Veteran suicides increased in 2017, according to new analysis released Friday by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) as part of the 2019 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report.
Information about veteran suicide prevention efforts and resources can be accessed online.
If you are a veteran in crisis or you are concerned about one, free confidential support is available 24/7. Call the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 or send a text message to 838255.