I came across this very sad news report out of Florida this week. This tragedy of a murdered mother should give every American pause with how bad the VA has become for our vets with TBI.
Christopher Reed Lynch was suffering from TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) when he murdered his mother.
Here’s what happened .
A Pace man has been arrested and charged with homicide for the death of his mother after Santa Rosa County Sheriff deputies responded to a distress call and discovered a woman lying in a pool of blood on the front porch, covered in bruises and lacerations.
The victim’s son, Christopher Reed Lynch, was taken into custody after a brief struggle and has been charged in the death of his mother, Cheryl Lynch.
Christopher suffered a severe traumatic brain injury on July 13, 2000, while on training exercises in France with the U.S. Army. Once Christopher returned home, Cheryl assumed the role of his caregiver.
From a cursory glance over the news article the first impulse is to be very angry with the son until you dig deeper into the story and realize the entire situation with what Cheryl was going through with her veteran son who had TBI (Tramatic Brain Injury) and her many pleas to the VA over a 10 year period of time.
In 2009 Cheryl wrote a letter to the House Committee on Veteran’s Affairs, and stated, “I am a 54-year-old mother — If something were to happen to me, who will know enough about my son’s individual difficulties and medical needs to continue to manage his care? Who will be able to act in his best interest or defense to assure he receives his entitled benefits? Who would be able to put the proper supports in place for my son to not end up on the streets, institutionalized, or even worse?”
Most people don’t understand how TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) can be a burden on a family and their caregivers. The VA doesn’t help.
I also wanted to share a facebook post from a lady who knew the family that sheds even more light on what was happening.
“I’ve been up since 3 a.m. My heart is heavy and my brain hurts. Yesterday was Mother’s Day and it should have been nothing but hugs and kisses and happiness. It wasn’t. Don’t get me wrong, yesterday certainly had its bright moments with my children as we enjoyed a long nature walk but secretly it was also painful. You see, before my kids and I left for our outdoor adventure I found out that a woman I admired and respected, a Mother herself, had died in the early hours of Mother’s Day. She died by the hands of her son. Aside from the shock, the irony wasn’t lost on me either – a Mother was taken from this world by the person who gave her the title of Mother. On the day she should have been celebrated she was mourned.
If I had just read the headlines of the newspaper back home and known nothing more than what was splashed all over social media I would have had a different response. I would have whispered things like “Monster” and “Lock him up and throw away the key” to myself. But I couldn’t because I know there’s more to this story than what random reporters knew. You see, I grew up with and graduated high school with the son. I know what happened after he enlisted. I know what happened after his accident on an Airborne training mission in France. I know about his fight back from a 28 day coma. I know what person awoke in him after his severe TBI. I know what his Mother did from the moment she got that phone call and flew to Walter Reed Army Hospital to the moment she took her last breath yesterday. I know that from the first breath he took 38 years ago up until the last breath she took on her last day SHE LOVED HIM. I’m grieved for so many reasons over this tragedy. I’m grieved for her loss, for her other son, her family, her friends, for the countless veterans and caregivers she’s counseled over the years, for the vacuum her death will leave in the TBI community and also for her youngest son who now sits in jail for taking her life.
To be completely honest her son wasn’t the easiest person to be around growing up. He wasn’t listed in the yearbook as “Most Thoughtful” and a lot of my high school classmates don’t have the best of memories of him. If our high school years were a movie he would have been the guy stuffing people in lockers and tossing firecrackers in occupied bathroom stalls. He wasn’t the greatest jock but he was good at baseball. He wasn’t the best student but he made for some humorous moments in classes and they usually involved him sleeping on a desk or a typical teenage boy wise-crack but every once in a while, when he didn’t think anyone would notice, he had some pretty genuine good-guy moments. He was just Chris, usually irreverent but like so many of us at the height of hormones and finding our way he just wanted to be liked. I’ve read so many comments from people who don’t have the best of memories of him from childhood to adulthood. I’ve read comments of people who did and considered him a friend. I happen to fall into both of those categories.
But what’s weighing heavy on my soul isn’t about him, it’s about HER. It’s about his Mother, Cheryl Lynch. It’s about what and who we lost. We lost one of the best advocates for research and care for those with Traumatic Brain Injury there were. We lost a fighter. We lost a mentor. We lost a friend. We lost a caring voice who always answered the phone calls of parents, spouses, children and friends who live with TBI in their lives every day. We lost a woman who forged through VA paperwork and appointments with the persistence only a Mother on a mission could. We lost a strong voice that spoke so long and so loud that even Congress heard her testimony a few years ago. We lost a great lady. I lost a motivator, a fellow advocate and a role model. Cheryl’s life took on new purpose after Chris was injured. She gave up the life she once knew to once again, take care of her son in what became his new life of recovery, treatment and adjustment. She was the first one to tell you that living and loving someone with TBI was hard. She would also tell you she wouldn’t do anything differently, except fight even harder. She understood the frustration of dealing with the VA on all levels. She understood how to fight them even more. She knew what it took to love someone who struggled with comprehending and understanding life and society after TBI. She understood what it was like for other people in society to not be able to see the person underneath the trauma and she took every opportunity to educate anyone who would listen. In a way Chery’s death is on the hands of the VA system just like the thousands of others who have died while trying to seek the answers and care they so desperately needed. She fought tooth and nail for every treatment, therapy, counselor and doctor that her son saw. And after every denial letter, canceled appointment, forgotten phone call and failed attempt she fought even harder.
Cheryl’s death is a tragedy on so many levels. Chris’ past and looming future is a tragedy too. In all of the ugliness surrounding all of this I hope something good comes of it. I want more than just awareness of the daily struggles TBI families face. I want more than people leaving comments of “The VA failed another veteran and his family”. I want recognition for these families, I want help for these families, I want change for these families. I want the VA to stop paying lip service to these families and start GIVING service to these families. Start looking at the research that Cheryl offered. Start listening to these veterans, parents, wives, husbands and friends. The VA doesn’t live with TBI day in and day out, the least they should do is listen to those who do. The veteran community can’t afford to lose another Cheryl. We also can’t afford to lose another Chris.
Rest in peace Cheryl Moore Lynch and may we all carry on your spirit, your strength and your fight.”
I’m hoping that stories like Cheryl’s result in action when it comes to our veterans and the VA.