By Romaree Herbert
State of Mind- Robert/Nikki Renz Story
Last month I wrote about the lack of mental health services offered to active-duty military personnel and veterans. This is a nationwide problem. While people are desperate to get the help they need, they do not know where to find it. Sometimes, even in the most obvious places, help is simply not available. This is Robert Renz’s story.
On January 11, 2023, at 4:30 pm, Robert Renz, a 57-year-old Army veteran went to the Veterans Hospital on Alabama St. urgently seeking mental health care. When he was denied services, he went out to the parking lot, and outside of his car he shot himself in the chest with his licensed rifle.
This severe act sends a dangerous and deafening message… But who is listening? I am… and that is why I chose to interview Nikki, Robert’s mom, who is grieving the loss of her eldest son, trying to come to terms with what happened.
Robert was originally from the Pecos, San Angelo, and Bal moray areas of Texas. He got his degree in Business Administration at Texas Tech and worked as an appraiser for Pecos County. He served in the military for two years, working overseas in Germany. “Robert always gave credit to the military for teaching him discipline, assertiveness and not to give up,” explained Nikki.
A few years ago, Robert decided to leave the Pecos area and move to El Paso. He rented a home and began working as a mortgage loan officer. Nikki describes him as a “true entrepreneur,” who took pride in his work. Robert convinced her to come to El Paso and move in with him because she was turning 80 soon. She agreed and soon they were living together, sharing the house, and helping each other out.
Nikki explained that Robert suffered from PTSD, severe insomnia, and tinnitus in both ears. She said it got to the point that he could not concentrate or sleep, which began affecting his work, so he had to quit his full-time job as a loan officer. He then tried door-to-door sales, selling solar panels, and then foam for insulation, but these jobs did not last. Meanwhile, the bills began to accumulate, and he began to experience anxiety.
“The VA just threw pills at him!” Nikki exclaimed. He was not able to get any other mental health services. “When you have a broken bone, they can fix it, but when it is it is mental, they say, suck it up,” she scoffed. He decided to see an independent, non-military therapist for hypnotism, hoping that this would help him sleep and get back on track.
Nikki went on to say that Robert ate healthily, regularly took vitamins, exercised, and despised taking medicine. “From all the physical pain from tinnitus, insomnia, needing to pay rent, I think he did very well. Though when looking back, she said that he began watching shows about animals or game shows and would tell her that he did not want any negativity in his life. “He even stopped watching Fox News because he didn’t want to watch anything negative!” exclaimed Nikki.
The day of Robert’s suicide started off like a normal day. He left their home to go see his therapist/ hypnotist in downtown, but never made it there. Instead, he showed up at the VA hospital in crisis mode. By 8 pm that evening, Robert still had not come home. Nikki called the police department to see if they could help her locate him. “It never entered my mind that he had killed himself… there was no indicator,” she recalled.
The next day, she got a phone call from her youngest son Jesse telling her what had happened. He explained that while there was not a suicide note found at the scene, Robert did leave a note for whomever found him, to have his brother call his mom to break the news of his suicide.
Jesse also told their mom that Robert shot himself in the chest, that the military police picked him up, and took him to the hospital, where he later died. She was in absolute shock and said that she never got any calls from the military to see how she was doing, or asking if there was anything they could do to help her…not even grief counseling was ever offered.
Nikki commented that the MP’s took Robert’s cell phone, his money, money clip, his car, and have never returned his possessions to her. She said that she has had to “call and call and call,” and that no one from the military has bothered to call her back. “The military has ignored me…. I have had to find out everything on my own… still nothing… condolences would be nice… nothing…just like it didn’t happen.”
A positive act of kindness that Nikki is tremendously grateful for is that Perches Funeral Home heard about the story and donated everything for the family to have a beautiful funeral service for Robert. “It left me feeling good, not sorrowful. GOD has a shield around me to protect me. I accept that he is gone.”
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