Sometimes the hardest part of war is coming home.
James Childs, who battles PTSD after serving 33 months in Iraq and Afghanistan, came to the conclusion that life was no longer worth living.
And so he posted a farewell note on Facebook in April and stopped answering his phone and his emails.
Enter total stranger Mary Dague, a veteran herself who served more than five years and lost both arms after a bomb she had dismantled nonetheless detonated.
Dague, 31, picked up the phone in Washington and called Childs in Florida. She had heard from a male friend who said his buddy had said goodbye on line and wouldn’t answer the phone.
“I called him and left a message,” Dague told INSIDE EDITION Tuesday. “I sent him texts. It took two hours for him to call me back.”
But when did, they talked for hours, she said. “When a soldier gets out of the military, you have an incredible loss of purpose,” she said. “You never feel like what you are doing now is as important as what you were doing,” said.
“I owe her a lot,” Childs said. “I owe her everything.”
“You don’t owe me anything,” Dague said softly.
The recently met for the first time outside Seattle in an encounter paid for by Kleenex as part of a Veteran’s Day event. The two were speaking via conference call Tuesday with INSIDE EDITION.
“I’d seen pictures of him” on the Internet, Dague said. “But it was nice to put a face to the guy I had been talking to.”
They spent the day together, and Childs stayed with Dague and her husband.
They have become good friends, they said. The Army veterans never served together in the same spot, but they are as close as brothers and sisters.
What pushed Childs over the edge that day in April was a visit he paid to his ex-wife, he said. He was supposed to pick up their two-year-old son and take him for the day. But when he arrived, he said, she wouldn’t allow it.
The 31-year-old former sergeant did see much point in going on.
But on the phone with Dague, he found himself inching back from the brink.
“We talked about everything that James had through, and we talked about ways that he can get through this,” she said.
Childs is now in specialized therapy for PTSD. He still fights it, but he wants to live. He is studying to become a motorcycle technician.
Dague, who receives military disability, works with veteran’s groups and speaks about suicide prevention
“My purpose (is) in being strong,” she said. “I never wanted the guys I served with to think they had let me down.”