Family says veteran committed suicide while waiting for treatment from VA

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JOHNSTON, Iowa (WHO) -- After two tours in Iraq, serving in the military as a combat engineer, 32-year-old Des Moines Lincoln High School graduate Curtis Gearhart quickly found friends.

"The funniest person I've ever known in my life. He was so kind and ready to be there for you no matter what, "said close friend Brie Lyndsey.

He also found love.

"I will never forget the way his girls ran up to him screaming daddy. It was one of the best moments I ever saw of him," said girlfriend Valesca Steffens. But because of fellow soldiers losing their lives in Iraq, he also found pain from PTSD, "guilt a lot of guilt and heartache."

In April, an unusual Facebook post read, "High high's, and low low's. I wish my life had a middle ground." It led his girlfriend to worry. "It wasn't easy but I felt like I talked him down from a ledge. I still had him, he was still here."

Then nearly two months ago Curtis went to the V.A. because of recurring headaches. Valesca said, "He previously had a tumor. He was worried about it and they told him it would be five to six weeks."

Photos of Curtis and his family:

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Curtis Gearhart, 32, committed suicide waiting for treatment
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Curtis Gearhart, 32, committed suicide waiting for treatment
After two tours in Iraq, serving in the military as a combat engineer, 32-year-old Des Moines Lincoln High School graduate Curtis Gearhart quickly found friends.
"The funniest person I've ever known in my life. He was so kind and ready to be there for you no matter what, "said close friend Brie Lyndsey.
"I will never forget the way his girls ran up to him screaming daddy. It was one of the best moments I ever saw of him," said girlfriend Valesca Steffens. But because of fellow soldiers losing their lives in Iraq, he also found pain from PTSD, "guilt a lot of guilt and heartache."
In April, an unusual Facebook post read, "High high's, and low low's. I wish my life had a middle ground." It led his girlfriend to worry. "It wasn't easy but I felt like I talked him down from a ledge. I still had him, he was still here."
Then nearly two months ago Curtis went to the V.A. because of recurring headaches. Valesca said, "He previously had a tumor. He was worried about it and they told him it would be five to six weeks."
He couldn't wait any longer and took his own life Monday, November 7th in Johnston.
"They send these soldiers over so young to fight these wars and then they don't live up to their promises of taking care of them when they come home," said Valesca.

She believes without being told to wait, Curtis would be alive. "Absolutely. He wanted help. He wouldn't have gone if he didn't."

Less than 24 hours before friends and family buried a military hero on Thursday, Valesca learned more vital information. "I ran upstairs and found out I was pregnant yesterday."

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He couldn't wait any longer and took his own life Monday, November 7th in Johnston.

"They send these soldiers over so young to fight these wars and then they don't live up to their promises of taking care of them when they come home," said Valesca.

Valesca says Curtis was worried help from an outside provider would have been too costly for him to pay but she urges others that waiting on the V.A. just isn't worth it. "I would be in debt for the rest of my life just to have him."

She believes without being told to wait, Curtis would be alive. "Absolutely. He wanted help. He wouldn't have gone if he didn't."

Less than 24 hours before friends and family buried a military hero on Thursday, Valesca learned more vital information. "I ran upstairs and found out I was pregnant yesterday."

She says the news is bittersweet but will allow his memory to remain. "I hope someday I'm gonna be able to look into his eyes again and that's a lot to look forward to."

After hearing about Curtis Gearhart's death from WHO-TV, Senator Joni Ernst responded saying:

The loss of Curtis Gearhart is truly tragic and my prayers are with Curtis, his family and friends at this time. We absolutely must ensure our men and women who have selflessly sacrificed in defense of our freedoms receive the quality, timely care they deserve. I am looking into what happened between the VA and Curtis, and what steps can be taken to prevent such tragedies in the future.

A fundraising account has also been set up for Curtis' children.

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