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A Sister's Soul of Emptiness By Kim Budrick Sakraska

December 13 th , 2018, will forever be the worst, emptiest, saddest, most horrific
day of my life. You see, on this day, I had to experience what most people will
never go through. In fact, I had two “worst moments of my life”, back to back on
this day. The first, was learning that my only brother, took his life. The second,
was having to tell my oldest son, that his hero, best friend, mentor and confidant
and reason for joining the army- “to be just like Uncle Rob”.. had died.. by his own
hand. To hear these words, then scream with terror and disbelief.. it literally
takes all your breath away… and then… to have to tell it, to your child, finding the
words, finding the courage, and literally as the words came out, I fell to my knees,
to look my child in his eyes, that his uncle lives no more… is a moment that gut
wrenches me and will forever pain my deepest soul. Wait, what soul, I am still
lost, empty and searching… My soul is gone.. I am left with just a body..
I am writing this, to share, not my story, but my brother’s story. I hope that if one
person that has struggled, and reads this… and somehow find’s that one more
breath in his own life to keep going, then maybe he can be saved. I am forever
scarred, that I was not able to save my brother, who I knew, needed to be saved
and yet I failed…. I failed……….I……… failed.
My brother is and will always be, the strongest, most intelligent, most
courageous, most inspiring, most worldly, most gifted man I will and have ever
known. Yet, he would have said the same about me (and I can hear him next to
me now, saying it again and again). It’s amazing to me, that after he died, how
many people reached out to me from all over the world, who know and knew
Rob. While I personally knew his impact, I am not sure he knew the Magnitude of
the impact he had on others. People had tons of stories, stories of 30 plus years
ago, stories of the month he died, stories stateside, stories from the Army…
Special Forces, Elite Airborne, Sniper, contracting…, stories from Iraq and

Phillipines and many many other Countries. I wonder, did he know? Did he know
how valued and impactful he was? That was both his curse, his struggle, his
challenge, his embarrassment. He is witty enough to know how intelligent and
held in high regard he was- yet it was to his own demise, right ? When he felt he
was no longer this “hero, mentor”. Though, he never called himself that- he
would always say- “I’m just lucky” “Lucky that my time was not up, lucky I
survived that plane crash, lucky I survived that explosion, survived that attack…
that trip… lucky that I can live to see another day, turned my cheek and the
bullet missed me, grazed my chin, lucky that I kicked the door out to exit, before
an explosion, lucky that I can still sleep at night while others can not. Wait, I can
no longer sleep, I can’t get these images out of my head, the sound, the smells,
the screams, the little girls being raped and killed right before my eyes as I could
do nothing ……… “
You see Rob’s internal valor was starting to break down. I compare it to a
professional athlete. There comes a time with age, and/or with so many
experiences that your body says it’s time. But for Rob, this was all he knew since
he was 18, he gave his heart, soul, blood, sweat, tears and life paths and choices
all he had, all he knew to his work. It made him feel alive. No other job, no
woman, no child, no person, nor anything else, made him feel Alive, as he did
while he worked. It gave him meaning- purpose. His superior Intelligence, was
far beyond that of any Schooling/ Educational Academics. Rob knew everything
about.. well everything. You see he had a voracious appetite for learning,
understanding and defining and solving. He listened intently to others and his
surroundings and picked up so much during his years and travels. If he heard
something he was unsure of, he immediately researched it, inquired upon it to
learn it. He read incessantly and became a new expert.
Rob could sense his body getting older, injuries starting to impact him, like
multiple explosions causing prior undiagnosed concussions, aching joints, slower
trigger pull, slower conditioning/ run times. Internally he began to have night
terrors, couldn’t shake off old memories, kept hearing / see images of traumatic
trips/ events that most didn’t even know things of such horrific terror even
existed. Yet he saw no other doors, because this is who he was, is and would

forever be. I am unclear if there was a “stigma” to admit you needed help
amongst this close knit group- I am unclear if Rob was worried about the stigma,
or worried about not being able to work (which in itself would internally kill his
spirit) or, if he was simply embarrassed that “Strong, Warrior, Creature, Rob.. “
was breaking down and just could not simply tell someone.. except, me. Those
nights when he called me while deployed the past year.. I listened, and listened,
and… listened. I begged for him to talk to someone and get help. He kept saying
to me “I can’t, you don’t understand, no one understands, it doesn’t work like
that here, there is no help, I can’t talk about these things and replay it, I replay it
each night” His only coping mechanism was to drink until he passed out so he
had no memory and no nightmares. His reliance on drinking was his “medicine” I
knew, he knew , he was spiraling… He sent me a song… “Burn, Flicker and Die”
As soon as I got that, I started to seek help myself, learn all I could to help him,
when he reached out to me, maybe I could be his mentor, his counselor. I looked
into “elite programs”, warrior programs. I knew that regular counseling, or the VA
would not work for him. Note- it’s disgusting how our veterans are treated.. our
prisoners are treated better than our vets. Prisoners get housing, 3 meals a day,
earn money, and can even get an education and rehab and a “second chance”,,, I
digress. I learned how to respond to him. I used some of his own thoughts,
words on myself in response- which he did not like. Ha. It worked- an example
was, what if I was at war, with myself, or I , as his big sister, was breaking down
and did not see a way out. He hated that thought and said he would do anything
to save me. Bingo. A break through. He called me most nights, and that was
good. He was talking and most nights ended on a good convo, at least I thought.
I planned to go see him when he was stateside and bring him programs that I felt
could help him. I thought he was at least stable that last deployment to get him
through… sadly he extended and I still thought he could manage.. Until that day I
received a call from the Government liason. Rob threatened suicide, but was
stopped while holding a gun to his head.
That day Rob said to me: “I’m glad I hit rock bottom, I am now broken and can
finally be fixed”. Though at the moment, he did admit, if his colleague hadn’t had
grabbed him, he probably would have pulled the trigger. He had practiced before

he told me. At times, he wasn’t thinking he said, he was in some dark spiral
moment and the only way out, the only door.. the only way to stop the terror..
was to pull the trigger.. I knew then I had to take control and get him help.
And off to heal we started: Rob moved in with me for about 6 weeks or so. PTSD
counseling, AA meetings. (Daily sessions with Big Sis). Next- Warrior to Warrior
Program- which was only for “Elites” which included Exos training (for
professional athletes includes body mind soul- nutrition, work outs, animal
therapy and counseling). Treatment at Brain Treatment Center in LA. We then
moved him out of his old apartment into a new town, a new cabin where he could
have some peace and quiet. He went on LOA/ Disability. Focused on the here
and now. One moment, one day at a time… He was committed. He curtailed the
drinking for a while, he was in regular 1-2 therapy sessions weekly and Nurse Case
Manager Sessions monthly. Doing everything he was supposed to do to get
better. But… he still had triggers, and with continual changes with insurance
adjusters, nurses and then delays with insurance checks, it caused unnecessary
stress coupled with inability to stop the triggers, nightmares.. then receiving his
Creature box from Iraq Deployment… he didn’t open it for months.. as It made
him sick… the reminder of his past, who he was, is, and what happened. The box
sat.. until one day he opened it.. it just tore him up… he fell wayside to drinking
again. I woke up to a text in the middle of the night.. he was ending his life. He
does not remember sending it, or what happened. But he did survive that night.
He just wasn’t yet healed enough to handle civilian life, stress or visiting the past,
like the box. He hit bottom again, and this time, we discussed it was time for
medication- by which he had refused prior but now finally agreed. I thought this
was a turning point. For time reference.. he had stopped deploying for only about
9 months, after 25 years of military/ defense contracting service / combat /
conflict deployments… 9 months is so early in this journey. I kept trying to
reassure him, that what he was going through were “normal reactions” to
abnormal situations he was in. His mental/ physical body had to learn to live
without the constant anxiety, adrenaline, trauma and firing connections.. that he
was “conditioned” for years.. Yes, the military, especially special forces, train
these men to have no emotion, handle trauma/ war and keep going to get the job

done. What they don’t train though, is how to return to “civilian life” and be an
average American Man.. or family transition… especially after essentially being a
trained expert “X” for 25 years… Very Sad.. Disgusting actually.
Medication had it’s side effects. We did find the perfect counselor and program
for him. For the next 3 months it seemed to be working. Rob’s spirits lifted and
he started to have hope. He started discussing officially retiring, understanding
he had to close that chapter and he looked forward to writing a new one. We
discussed new dreams, goals and many options. We made holiday plans, planned
to cut down a Christmas tree and he talked about all the places he was going to
take my family to when we came up to visit in TN at Christmas. He even put up
Christmas lights.. I could hear joy, simplicity and light returning in his voice. He
worked some side jobs, looked Into some schooling, was journaling. Things were
looking good. Until…
My son joined the Army, and was accepted in OCS. Rob was going to facetime me
so he could see his commitment ceremony. Rob lived out in the country and lost
internet/ cell service from time to time due to bad storms. The night before my
son’s commitment ceremony, there were storms that went through TN, I was not
able to get ahold of my brother (which we spoke typically almost every day) and I
saw storms went through and assumed he lost service. I was a bit panicky as I
knew Rob wouldn’t want to miss this ceremony. I initially tried to blame it on the
storms.. And Unfortunately.. he missed it….. And today was December 13 th .. We
were heading up to See him one week later on December 20 th . Something was
wrong.. and I was right…. I never saw him alive again.
I had a horrible sinking feeling. My brother was not answering his phone. I had
last spoken to him 2 days prior in a good positive conversation for about 2 hours.
Next, his counselor called, Rob had missed his first appointment ever. I loaded up
my car and headed to TN…
We believe that Rob had a night terror (as he had many, waking up not knowing
where he was, gun in hand or what he was doing.. confused, sweating, shaking…).
We believe that Rob had one of these episodes, and unknowingly, unplanned,
acted out “an exit” per his counselor.. Perhaps a sort of unintentional /

accidental acting out some nightmare/ night terror and only had one day to
make it stop, not realizing what he was doing. All signs pointed to this….
Upon entering his house.. I was immediately greeted by a “Dark Spirit”.. I can’t
explain this 6 th sense.. I had never experienced this before.. The spirit turned
around and I could see my brothers bright blue eyes.. and I heard screaming/
yelling.. “OH MY GOD NO.. Kim.. NO.. I AM SO SORRY.. WHAT HAVE I DONE.. IT
at first this was planned.. Rob was done.. and I kept praying he was okay and
made it to heaven and telling him if he had died by his own hand it was okay….
But when I walked in that door.. and the dark figure, the blue eyes.. feeling his
spirit, hearing the yelling… It did not stop until I spoke to him out loud.. “Rob.. I
can hear you.. somehow.. I understand.. it was an accident.. I will figure out what
happened…” Once I acknowledged the spirit, the yelling stopped and I could now
just sense him walking with me by my side.. guiding me what to do next, who to
call, who to talk to , what to do.. and what not to do, as this spirit did get angry if
I read private notes, or spoke to people I did not know, until I did that he did not
like. My world, my life, my physical body, my mental health, from this day
forward has forever changed. I am broken. I will never be the same. December
13 th , 2018-
Almost 5 years have passed. I continue to look for the signs that my brother is still
here in spirit. The ironic coincidences that I know are him. Signs, songs, random
animals that appear when I ask, rare appearances, karma against those who hurt
our family… Rob now protects from above. I always knew his intelligence was
“out of this world” and would figure out a way to live in 3 dimension…. However, I
am left behind in a world of traumatic grief, brokenness, guilt, sleepless nights,
living the “what if I had tried or said this” What if I went up for thanksgiving
instead, what if I offered to drive him down to OCS ceremony instead of face
time.. the constant obsession on solving the timeline of the night of his death,
the fake smiles..
I am still broken. I finally have figured out a way to live day by day.. carrying the
weight of his death, this grief.. in melancholy. It’s parallel. I will never be the

same.. I don’t want to be the same or the “old Kim” my life is different without
my “irish twin brother” I lost my first best friend, my hero, a life partner… I know
no life without him.. until now. I do not want to forget the pain of losing him. He
deserves that. I honor him. I live 50/50 day by day. Some days are very hard.
Some days I feel happy, but with the internal grief I carry for him. And that is
okay.. that is my journey. It’s living parallel.. and unless you have walked this
walk… you would not understand. You do not “Get over it, or move on” And no,
Time does not heal all wounds.
If you know someone struggling.. listen.. remind the of their strengths.. check in
daily… the world is not better without them. Show them a tiny pebble, glimmer
of hope.
I’ll end with this.. The day of my brother’s military funeral.. I had so much anxiety
as I was unsure about having the military honors ceremony.. because he had
expressed many times that he did NOT want this recognition nor “song and
dance” if / when he died. I was going against his wishes.. What made me decide
to have the military ceremony as well (we did a celebration of life as well as he
wished and roasted him lol).. However, upon speaking with Rob’s counselor, the
counselor mentioned how Rob kept saying “no one knew his stories or all the
achievements/ recognitions” he always got “challenge coins”.. or “trinkets” as he
called them. He was very humble and would always say to me “got another
trinket today, but doesn’t matter because I can’t talk about it anyway.. I almost
got killed, and I get a coin for my life”… He wasn’t allowed to talk about it, nor be
recognized other than behind closed doors. So over time, he kept as it didn’t
matter to anyone,,, other than him and Govt.. but to the Govt he was just a
number. (Elite Contractor no one knows exits)… In conversation with the
counselor, he pointed out, that his funeral would be the last and only opportunity
to publically and officially give Rob the Honor and Recognition his and his legacy
deserved.. And he asked me to please reconsider that. So I did.

That day of his funeral.. we snuck some of Rob’s ashes and buried some with our
grandfather who fought in Iwa Jima as a Marine. Filled with Grief, Guilt and

Anxiety.. I stepped away to walk towards the car… Talking to Rob, asking for a
sign.. begging for a sign to know that he was okay and not angry with me for the
military honors funeral service… I stood silently.. waiting.. and waiting. Every
time I asked for a sign.. I immediately received one. Except today.. My family
now back at the car.. waiting for me.. I reluctantly sighed and said out loud..
“okay Rob.. I guess you are mad at me.. I accept that.. I went against your
wishes.. Well.. Too Bad… I am mad at you for leaving me .. So there.. we are
even… I’ll see you soon…” I turned and walked away to the car.. Sad.. empty.. no
sign…. A minute later, my husband got out of the car (he had no idea what I
was doing or saying as he couldn’t hear me he was too far away)… And he said
“Kim, turn around.. “…. I turned around and saw a Gold Beam from the sky, with
a majestical rainbow that appeared out of nowhere, over the grave site I just left.
I immediately got chills and then I heard “Hey Kim, sorry.. it took me a minute .. I
wanted it to be epic.. yes I am okay, and by the way.. I made it to heaven”…
Here is the photo of that moment.
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1 comment

I have no words!! I felt your story and I cried while reading it. there is no other word but, hero. Thank you for sharing your story. May it bring healing to someone. even if that someone is you!! Hugs my friend!!


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