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Suicide at Philly VA Medical Center?

"Hey Stephanie. Have you heard anything about a suicide at the VA Hospital this morning?" the vet wrote.

The message, from a veteran I worked with on a previous story, came through yesterday, but I read it for the first time about an hour ago:

"Hey Stephanie. Have you heard anything about a suicide at the VA Hospital this morning?" the vet wrote.

I told him I had not, but that I would look into it.

When I called Philadelphia police, a spokeswoman said she'd heard of the incident but told me that city police didn't respond to it and thus, there was no report she could pass along. She suggested I contact the fire department, but a spokesman there said he had no information to release either.

A quick search online shows that The Daily Beast, a national news-and-entertainment website, did a short story yesterday in which it reported that a disabled veteran who was seeking mental health treatment walked out of the waiting room of the Philadelphia VA Medical Center yesterday morning and to the top of a parking garage, where he jumped to his death.

I couldn't help but think of all the battles - physical and mental - the vet must have gone through that led him to that moment. We rarely report on suicides in the media, and usually, it's only if they are done in a public space, but this one - aside from happening in public - is also being talked about by our area vets, and thus, deserves our attention.

Fern Billet, spokeswoman for the Philadelphia VA Medical Center, is out of the office today and only accessible by email, according to those in the medical center's communications office.

When I wrote her to inquire about the suicide, she sent me this response:

"We at Corporal J. Michael J. Crescenz VA Medical Center were saddened to learn of the loss of a Veteran on our campus yesterday. The VA Police Department and Philadelphia Medical Examiner's Office are the lead agencies in this investigation which is ongoing, and we are cooperating fully. On behalf of the Department of Veterans Affairs, we extend our deepest condolences to the veteran's family, friends and neighbors. They are in our thoughts and in our prayers. VA is committed to caring for all of our Veterans, their families and communities."

When I wrote Billet back, asking for further information regarding the circumstances of the incident or the military history of the deceased vet, she said her previous statement was all that Veterans Affairs would be releasing now.

It saddens me that the only information I can impart about this veteran today has to do with his death and not his life. Everyone has a story that deserves to be told.

If you knew the veteran and want to share his story, please don't hesitate to contact me at 215-854-4225 or