Evan Rhoden, 33, took his own life on June 13 leaving behind his wife Amanda Rhoden, and their blended family of four children.
“I told them, ‘sometimes people get sick in their belly and (take medicine to) make it go away, and sometimes people get sick in their mind and their thoughts and they can take medicine and it doesn’t always work and make it better,” Amanda Rhoden told their children. “‘I’m sorry, daddy’s not coming home, daddy’s in heaven.‘”
Evan Rhoden was born and raised in Florida. He was a U.S. Army veteran who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. His wife says his time overseas was so traumatic, that he underwent years of therapy at the Veteran Affairs Clinic. The family moved to a farm in Georgia, a place Amanda says was therapeutic for Evan.
“He wanted to make this place beautiful and therapeutic as it was for him, for other veterans,” she said.
Evan Rhoden earned a degree in psychology with the dream of turning his farm into a safe space for other veterans.
“Evan had an army and a village behind him, but the PTSD consumed him,” Amanda Rhoden said. “My husband and I were walking through the yard and saw our son playing and my husband broke down in tears. He said it reminded him of the little boy in Iraq that he used to play in the streets with and give candy and soccer balls to.”
Scott Snyder lives in Summerfield and was deployed with Evan Rhoden in Iraq, where they became close friends. Snyder said deployment isn’t over when soldiers go back home.
“It’s difficult trying to fit back in to society and trying to find out where you fit in. It’s tough for a lot of people. A lot of us go through depression,” Snyder said.
Snyder and his wife, who is also an Army veteran, organized a virtual 5K called “Run for Rhoden,” with all proceeds going to help the Rhoden family during this tragic time. Snyder hopes the race will bring awareness to PTSD in the military community. Every participant receives a medal that reads “For those who served” to remember soldiers like Evan Rhoden.
“His compassion, his smile, his strength, his love and his fight,” Amanda Rhoden said. “My motto has been to ‘stay strong and love hard’ because Evan was strong when he didn’t want to be.”
Amanda said through this difficult time she continues to advocate for therapy and still plans to turn the farm into a healing center for veterans or any one else going through depression.
Anyone can participate in the virtual 5K. All you have to do is click here to register and then send in a photo with some type of proof that you completed the 5K. Snyder will send participants their medals in the mail. The cost to register for the race is $30.
Snyder says he will continue the “Run for Rhoden” until there are no longer any active participants.
If you or someone you know is a veteran experiencing PTSD, talk to someone using the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255, press 1 or text 838255.