Tyler Anderson “was one of those kids that, 3 o’clock on the morning, call him, ‘Hey, I gotta talk,’ he was there,” said David Licek.
Licek said he would have done the same for Anderson. But, Anderson never called.
Anderson was found dead June 22 in Brookfield Township Cemetery. The Trumbull County coroner has ruled the death a suicide, and set the time of death at 8:58 a.m., the time at which he was found.
Toxicology tests are pending, the coroner’s office said.
Brookfield Police Det. Aaron Kasiewicz said members of Anderson’s family have been going around town looking for evidence that his death was not a suicide, but Kasiewicz said nothing they have presented has led him to a different conclusion. The police investigation remains open.
Licek and Anderson became close friends when Licek enlisted in the Marines. He was only a junior at McDonald High School and entered the delayed entry program, of which Anderson, who was a year older, already was a member.
“He was the guide of the recruiting station, so he was like kind of the head of the poolies, which are the guys getting ready to go,” Licek said. “We instantly just hit it off. He was such a cool guy.”
They hung out together, went to concerts and Yankee Lake Truck Night, watched movies and “stupid” YouTube videos, and conducted physical training together.
“We became best friends,” Licek said. “Probably spent more days together than not. I can’t tell you how many times he slept on my dad’s couch.”
When Licek worked at Foot Locker in the Eastwood Mall, Anderson and another poolie would hang out there for Licek’s shift.
“Tyler was an incredible human being,” Licek said. “Tyler was the first one there if you needed somebody. He was a backbone. He was a leader. He was a hard-charging guy who would never have left anybody behind.”
Anderson introduced Licek to “real facts about the military,” and they’d go on recruiting gigs together. Anderson was a recruiting success story because the former Hubbard High football player had dropped more than 100 pounds to make the Marines’ weight limit.
“He was in the gym every day,” Licek said. “It was incredible.”
Because of the age difference, they went to boot camp at different times, and then were in separate units. Anderson eventually was stationed in Hawaii, and Licek at Camp Lejeune.
“Unfortunately, you know, one of the hard things about the military is that it separates you from your friends,” Licek said. “You make the closest friends ever, but it does separate you.”
When Licek, 23, got out at the end of 2020, Anderson was already out.
“We talked a couple times after I was home,” Licek said. “Unfortunately, we were never able to make our schedules work to see each other, which absolutely sucked.”
Licek and Anderson last talked about four weeks before Anderson’s death.
“It was just a quick, ‘Hey. How are you doing?’” Licek said. “I think, three out of the five minutes we were (expletive) about an old story from (a concert). We were just laughing and reminiscing on old times. We talked about hooking up and seeing each other again, and we kind of left it at, ‘Hey, I’ll let you know when I’m free.’”
“The last time I talked to him, he seemed like he was on his feet,” said Licek, of Cortland. “There’s only so much you can gather from a conversation. I had the unfortunate experience that I talked to one of my Marine friends who took his life that day that he did it. It was another conversation. It was a normal day. He sounded like he was gonna go out to the bar that night and drink with his buddies. It was a normal day and then the next morning it was ‘What the hell happened?’ The day that we (he and Anderson) talked last, he was fine from what I could tell. It’s hard to tell without being with him.”
Another former poolie talked to Anderson the day before his body was discovered.
“She said she had a very normal conversation with him,” Licek said. “They were planning on meeting up within the next week or two to hang out.”
Licek said he never would have thought that Anderson would take his own life.
“I don’t know what he was going through,” Licek said. “I wish I did, and it’s heartbreaking because, knowing how close we were, I would have been there in a heartbeat for him. It could have been 3 o’clock in the morning and I would have been on a motorcycle and over to him.”
Anderson’s death is part of a larger story, one that Licek is all too intimate with.
“Tyler’s is the fifth suicide that I have experienced this year,” Licek said. “All Marines.”
“I never served in combat,” he said. “I never lost anybody on a bloody battlefield. I’ve lost brothers and sisters at home.”
Licek’s first experience with service suicide was when a guy in his unit killed himself in the barracks, they lived in.
“It’s a plague that we don’t understand,” Licek said.
Licek struggled with depression while he was serving, but he came out to a support system that included his family, his fiancé and her daughter, and his best friend, who also served in the Marines. He’s a member of the Leathernecks Nation motorcycle club, which is made up of Marine vets, many of whom know people who took their own lives.
For Licek, his connection to other vets, who have the same instilled military mindset and similar experiences, is a key in civilian life.
“I believe that every active-duty guy, every veteran, can go through a deep period of depression where you’ve got your friends, you’ve got your boys, you’ve got your unit, your support system, and you’re always missing something,” Licek said.
There are many factors that could be at play in the lives of ex-military who take their own lives, Licek said. The transition from military to civilian life is difficult because the two ways of life are so different. Many vets went from their parents’ home to the military and never had a transition period to doing things for themselves, he said. Job issues, relationship issues, loneliness and struggles securing benefits from the VA all could be factors in the lives of those who took their own lives, he said.
The military has made strides in preparing service members for civilian life, but there needs to be more help available from civilian authorities, he said.
“What can we do to help those guys?” Licek said. “What can we do to help this community of people and stop this from happening more? It’s events, it’s awareness, it’s help, it’s building programs that when these guys get out they don’t feel like they’re on their own. They’re not alone.”
Licek pledged to “live his (Anderson’s) honor out.”
“I want to use his name to help others. Use his name to let other guys know, ‘You’re not alone. We can help you.’ Using him, in a way, as sad as it is, as an example to so many other veterans, to so many other civilians, to anybody to just say, ‘Hey, this is a problem that is being ignored by a lot of people.’”