It was Sgt. Jeffery Reber’s honor and he was her pride and joy.
“Scared me to death. But it’s what he wanted to do,” said Debra Reber.
“My concern when he joined the Marines was, was he going to be able to handle it because he was so easy going. He thrived. He loved it.”
Jeffery survived four deployments overseas to Iraq, Afghanistan and Yemen.
Debra says he became a black belt and an expert shooter. But at great cost.
“He saw a lot of horror over there, though. And he brought a lot of it back with him. A lot of guilt.”
And Debra frequently replays the day Jeffery called saying his wife asked for a divorce.
The day of their last phone call.
“In fact, I talked to him 45 minutes before he shot himself,” she said.
“August 12, 2014.”
His Marine records attribute Reber’s suicide to “multiple life stressors, both at work and at home.”
“He had two beautiful boys. So he had to be really, really tormented to think that was his only option,” his mother said.
His military docs say Sgt. Reber had been diagnosed with “anxiety disorder” but was a “low risk” for suicide.
Superiors called him a “strong Marine,” a “dynamic leader” and “exceptionally well-rounded.”
Yet without an act of Congress, chances are the name Sgt. Jeffrey Reber will never appear on a national war memorial.
“I want my son to be recognized. I want my son to be honored. I don’t want him pushed aside because of a stigma,” said Debra.
“Don’t take away his military service because of a choice he made. Bad choice? Yeah, because my son’s not here. But he served.”
The U.S. Department of Defense does not recognize suicide cases on monuments like the Vietnam memorial or any other memorial.
It’s a national policy.
Debra’s started an online petition demanding all fallen soldiers qualify for the honor, with more than 39,000 signatures.
“People down the road, you know years down, to see his name would be going, ‘Thank you. Thank you for your service.’”
For weeks, CBS4 has asked Indiana’s U.S. Senators Joe Donnelly and Todd Young to weigh in.
Neither has been willing to say where they stand.
Debra’s hoping to get someone’s attention in Congress or the White House to tell them face-to-face what it would mean to see the name Sgt. Jeffery Reber etched in stone.
“Everything. It would mean he got the respect he deserved, that his life mattered,” she said.