Book tells story of Fort Carson family's recovery after sons' death

It may be a best-seller, but to Mark and Carol Graham, it started as a nightmare. The former Fort Carson commander and his bride lost both their sons - one to the war in Iraq and one to the war in his head. 

"We had so much sorrow," Carol Graham said. "The Invisible Front," a 300-page book by author Yochi Dreazen, is the latest in the effort of the Grahams to turn sorrow into something that can help others. 

It details the Graham family from elementary school spelling bees to funerals and weddings. And it takes readers on the couple's long recovery from their sons' deaths - Jeff in 2004 to an enemy attack and Kevin eight months earlier to suicide. 

"We talked long and hard before we did it," said Mark Graham, a retired Army major general who served as commander of Fort Carson and the First Army Division West from 2007 to 2009. "We knew we would be opening ourselves up." 

There are no secrets in a book that shows wrenching grief, slow recovery and, later, understanding. Here's a line: "It was the night before Kevin's funeral and Carol was debating how she should take her own life." 

The book also shows how Mark Graham debated hanging up his uniform after Jeff's death, his mind gridlocked by grief. From the pain of the deaths, the Grahams rose to become two of the biggest mental health advocates in the Army. 

In command at Fort Carson, Mark Graham overhauled how the post treated troops with mental wounds and sought an Army investigation into widespread misconduct among war veterans, including a string of Colorado Springs murders. 

The book details Mark Graham's first all-hands meeting of officers at Fort Carson. First, the general chewed out his officers for failing to meet the needs of returning veterans. Then he told them about his son's suicide and cried. 

Mark Graham said he has a difficult time turning the pages of Dreazen's book. "It's really hard for me to go back and read it because we lived it," Graham said. Mark Graham now works as a civilian on Pentagon efforts to prevent suicide and shore up mental health programs. 

"America can do this," he said. "We can end the stigma." The book is helping do that. Carol Graham said her phone and email have been humming about the book. It's a story that has given others the courage to share their own suffering, she said. 

"They say it helps them to share their stories about their families or themselves," she said. "They are so often afraid to tell anybody about depression and PTSD." Mark Graham said they plan to keep up their fight against suicide and mental illness. 

After Kevin took his life, Jeff told his father it was a campaign worth continuing. "It's what Jeff wanted," Mark Graham said. 

By Tom Roeder

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