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'I would have taken my life when I got back home:' Army veteran credits Dublin VA with saving his life

Army veteran Ashton Ridings says losing two family members plus his battle with PTSD led him down a dark road

DUBLIN, Ga. — The Carl Vinson VA Medical Center in Dublin is praising their staff members after they stopped an Army veteran from killing himself.

Ashton Ridings says he made up his mind to kill himself because of the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder he was dealing with, but he says a higher power led him to the medical center and ultimately saved his life.

RELATED: New Dublin VA director discusses solutions to improve the medical center

MORE: National PTSD Awareness Day: How to get help

"I would have taken my life when I got back home,"  Ridings said.

Ridings says his time in Afghanistan always sticks with him.

"I started questioning everything I ever believed," Ridings said. 

He says he deployed in 2011.

"The culture, the people, the suffering, the dead," Ridings said.

Tasked with protecting Afghan villages from the enemy, Ridings says watching children suffer started to take a toll.

"There were so many kids there, who just, that did not have families, did not have mothers, did not have siblings, they were just running around in these villages," Ridings said. 

By 2014, Ridings says he suffered a traumatic brain injury, so he was sent back to the United States. 

"I started having a massive amount of seizures, and I was admitted to the hospital, and I was having between 15 to 25 seizures a day," Ridings said. 

Ridings says he had fluid drained from his brain, but once he got better life threw him another curve ball.

"I lost my sister last year -- January 31st -- due to a hit and run. She was my best friend. I lost my daughter September 21st of last year," Ridings said. 

Ridings says he would stay in bed all day until he called the crisis line.

"I called the Dublin VA, and she talked to me for an hour and 25 minutes," Ridings said. 

RELATED: 'You are not invisible:' Organization aims to help vets struggling with their mental health

After the phone call, Ridings drove two hours from Augusta to Dublin.

"That is when I met nurse practitioner Kristin Horton," Ridings said. 

Horton says she tried to build trust with him.

"I squatted down so we can be face-to-face, and we had a conversation, and I tried to build his trust with me and ask him why he was here, ask him what I could do for him," Horton said. 

Ridings says the help of the Horton, nurse Adrienne Warnock, plus VA Police Officers Sergeant Lang, Mickey Malon, and other officers saved his life. 

"Each one of those officers would come into that room and sit on the bed beside me, and just beg me to get this help, and just follow Mrs. Horton's instructions," Ridings said.

Today he says he is forever thankful to staff at the Dublin VA, who gave him a second chance to see a brighter day.

"This place is extraordinary, every person here is always kind," Ridings said.  

If you or a veteran you know are dealing with any type of mental illness, you can call the veterans crisis line at 1-800-273-8255.

RELATED: Resources for mental health and addiction in Central Georgia

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