This story discusses suicide. If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, please call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, or text TALK to 741741. If you know a veteran or current military service member who is struggling with PTSD, depression or chronic pain, visit Stop Soldier Suicide for additional resources and assistance.
Jonathan Full performed a simple kind deed for a group of active military service members and is now hoping his act will help spread awareness about those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) — and do whatever they can to help.
Jonathan and his older brother, Stephen, went to Durham, North Carolina, on March 9 to get their kids some lunch and make a Costco run while their wives (Nikki and Alex) did some shopping nearby. For other patrons at the Chick-fil-A the family visited, it seemed like a regular Saturday afternoon. But for the Fulls, it was anything but a typical weekend.
Jonathan and Stephen's stepbrother, Joshua (whose last name they asked TODAY keep private), a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who served four years in Afghanistan, who suffered from PTSD had died from suicide just a few days earlier.
While his family was dining, Jonathan noticed two military personnel in the restaurant and, according to Stephen, got up quickly and walked over to them.
Shortly after, a group of nine more service members walked in, Stephen told TODAY. Without hesitation, Jonathan then asked other customers waiting in line to allow the service men and women to move to the front and, while shaking their hands and thanking them, paid for each of their meals.
According to Stephen, as Jonathan talked to each man and woman in uniform, he asked them "to reach out to anyone they knew with PTSD and try their best to get them the help they needed."
"I have always helped people and loved the military for their selfless acts protecting our lives. That very instant was a strong pull from my heart in attempt to reach out about Josh and try and help anyone who might experience PTSD," Jonathan told TODAY. "It was a way to share his story and grieve for him at the same time."
Jonathan told TODAY that he doesn't like the spotlight and never expected to be in it now that his impromptu generosity, which Stephen posted to Facebook on Saturday, has led to a viral outpouring of support. The post currently has almost 2,000 reactions and nearly 700 shares. But, if anything is to come of his small act, said Jonathan, he hopes it will spread awareness about PTSD and help to other veterans like Joshua.
"Do you know what a small gesture like paying for their meal and thanking a serviceman or woman does to their head and heart?" Stephen told TODAY.
"You never know what is going on inside. PTSD is not always visible. We did this and will continue to do this in remembrance of our late brother Joshua who ended his battle with PTSD last weekend."
Stephen added that he and his brother are hoping to use this moment to teach their sons (aged 2 to 6) to respect and honor the men and women who fight for this country — to "take care of the people that take care of us," Stephen told TODAY.
The soldiers later stopped by the family's table to express their gratitude, which is when Jonathan shared the full story about Joshua's recent passing, and again encouraged the men and women not to remain silent about PTSD.
"We spend a lot of time and money training to be military personnel. I wish the same amount of care and time would be spent on those who need help coming back from the military training," Jonathan told TODAY. "My quote I like using is 'a random act of kindness never hurt anyone.' No one knows how full someone's bucket really is. Treat people with a kind heart and it might save their day."