Target 8: Pinellas mother says Marine fell through cracks, took his own life

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — Joseph Ryan Rasor was born and raised in Pinellas County. 

Joe joined the Marines at age 18. He shipped out to war at 19.

“You can’t really plan for it,” said his mother Carol Rasor-Cordero.

During his six years in the Marines, Joe deployed twice to Iraq and once to Afghanistan.

His mother noticed a slight change in Joe each time he returned home. Carol wondered about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD.

“I figured after three tours, there has to be something there, it wasn’t observable to me,” said Carol, a former Lieutenant with the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office.

Joe left the Marines in 2010. He finished up his degree and took graduate courses at the University of South Florida.

Eventually, Joe moved out west to Portland, Oregon.

In April, a sheriff’s deputy knocked on Carol’s door at 3 a.m.

“When I was with the sheriff’s office, I was part of the hostage negotiation team. I have a lot of training in suicide prevention and I couldn’t prevent my own son from taking his life,” explained Carol. “And that’s just a burden I’m going to have to carry in life.”

Carol had spoken with Joe the day before. She told him about her new dog. He seemed happy for her.

She learned of Joe’s death at 3 a.m., by noon she was on a flight to Portland. Along with Joe’s dog Harley, Carol brought home his records.

As she went through them, she was shocked to discover that at age 20, the Marines put Joe on Prozac, an anti-depressant drug, then re-deployed him for more combat.

She believes the Department of Defense dropped the ball.

“If our loved ones are being given medication let us know, bring us into the fold, so that we know what’s going on with them early on, not after their deaths,” she said.

Carol knew that Joe was being treated at the V.A. in Portland for injuries he suffered in Afghanistan. She had no idea he was also being seen for PTSD.

His counselor had no idea Joe took his own life.

He told Carol that Joe showed no signs that he might hurt himself. He told her that Joe’s sessions were reduced from once a week, to twice a month. The counselor also told her that he kept very few notes.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that the system failed him just from that example,” stated Carol.

This week, at a town hall meeting on suicide at Bay Pines, Carol watched and listened to those struggling with PTSD.

One Vietnam veteran dealing with PTSD told Bay Pines health care executives that the V.A. cut off his medication.

“I crawled up in my bed thinking about killing myself,” he said.

“It was actually very moving to see grown men, veterans that served our country so well, crying openly,” explained Carol. “That should not be happening.”

Dr. Alfonso Carreno, Director Mental Health Services, assured veterans attending the town hall meeting that they can receive same day mental health care at Bay Pines.

Carol points out many occupations use psychological testing on the front end. She believes the military should employ robust psychological screening on the back end. Then, she thinks it is imperative to assist veterans making the transition from the military to the V.A. for services.

Carol Rasor-Cordero believes the V.A. and Department of Defense need to learn what she has, and they can start by listening to what Joe’s Marine buddies had to say at his funeral.

“They came up to me, gave me a hug, told me how much, how much Joe meant to them, and that he talked them out of suicide. I think that that’s such a tragedy, that there are soldiers out there, veterans who are still suffering and they’re not getting the help they need, and I think that’s unacceptable,” she said.

She knows when she got that knock on the door at 3 a.m. at least 20 other military mothers or spouses received similar news that day, and that needs to change.

If you have a problem that you think should be investigated call our Target 8 Helpline at 1-800-338-0808. Contact Steve Andrews at sandrews@wfla.com.

Follow Steve Andrews on Facebook

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