Suicide Leaves Bruises: Final 24

  • Published
  • By Shannon Hall
  • Air Force Wounded Warrior Program

A porch is a place where families gather to greet each other after months of being apart, a place where people sit to enjoy their drinks and watch their neighbors pass by, a place where hugs and love is spread throughout the hearts that gather there. Does anyone ever think that their porch is where they would spend their last hours thinking about life and then putting a gun to their head?

Armando Franco, Wellness and Resiliency team lead, did just that in the summer of 2008. He had just been forced to retire after serving over 31 years in the Army and upon his return from his last deployment, found out he, and his team, were being indicted for war crimes. His porch then became his new “home-base,” and was his comfort zone when in pain.

“I lived in North Carolina and had one of those long, southern porches that was the length of the house. I would sit there everyday drinking, taking pills and watching traffic go by,” Armando said.

His days were all the same while he was going through this tough time. He would sleep in, go sit on his front porch late in the afternoon, watch traffic go by, clean his guns, and drink alcohol. He was so secure in his decision that even a call from his daughter, that day, saying she wanted to come stay with him did not hinder his suicide plan. He reminisced more on his career, that was now over, the discomfort of the indictment charges and the reality that he had missed a lot of his kids’ childhood, more than he had any day prior.

“There was a lot of shame, guilt and depression,” Armando said. “I lost touch because I lived on my own and part of my own treatment was to disassociate myself with all my former friends.”

On this day, he woke up knowing it would be his last. He moved things around in his home that he had never moved before, he wrote a repair to-do list which he had never done, he even went through his contacts of business cards and contemplated calling people to say goodbye.

“I had a routine, but there was no normalcy that day. I had rehearsed this scenario many times before. I knew how many pills to take so the gunshot wouldn’t hurt, and if I missed, the amount of medication I took would finalize my plan,” Armando said. “I had nothing to lose.”

He knew how many pills to take because he had overdosed before. He was not scared of shooting a gun because that was something he did daily throughout his life. He had acquired the ability to know what the result was from all these things, so he had the courage to go through with it.

In his final moments, Armando sat on his porch, wrote a letter to his daughter, took his pills, swallowed a substantial amount of alcohol, put the gun to his head and fell over.

“I picked up my 45, chambered around and said, “I am going to die,” and as I raised the gun to my head, that’s the last thing I remember.” Armando said. “My face hit the floor and I passed out.”

A day or two later Armando woke up, with the gun still in his hand. He only had six rounds left and his ears were ringing, so he knew he shot a round but somehow, he survived his suicide attempt.

“At that moment, everything that I was going through no longer bothered me. There was light and there was hope,” Armando said. “I knew there was some form of divine intervention. The next day I was gun free and got rid of every firearm I had. Even today I only own a shotgun for home protection.”

Although he waited for 3 months after his suicide attempt to see a therapist, Armando was more submissive to receiving professional treatment to help him cope through all of his tragedies. He joined a support group for veterans and was very vocal about his career and attempt, and this helped him grow through his treatment.

“The more you talk about your situation, the less intense it is every time,” Armando said. “Yes, it still hurts, it just doesn’t hurt as bad. People will judge you, but you have to be humble and transparent, so people can learn and understand what we go through.”

AFW2 is continuously hosting virtual socials live on Facebook to help everyone cope during this time. Visit the program’s Facebook page to hear stories of resiliency, engage in wellness activities and live sporting competitions hosted by Air Force Wounded Warriors. For additional information, visit to refer an Airman to the program, read about the program’s mission and learn about additional services offered to caregivers and families.