Aaron Gell | Longreads | April 2018 | 37 minutes (9,230 words)

This feature is published in collaboration with Task & Purpose, whose team of veterans, military family members, and journalists tell the stories of the military and veterans communities.

The thing that everyone remembered about the man in the light gray sweatshirt was how composed he was, how polite and respectful. One morning this past summer, he quietly entered a Wells Fargo bank branch in the Atlanta suburbs in a desperate state. But he didn’t curse or even raise his voice. He just calmly relayed the litany of setbacks and obstacles that had led him to an extraordinarily reckless act.

Brian Easley, 33-years-old, standing 6 feet 2 inches with close-cropped hair and glasses, had woken up on the morning on July 7, 2017, in Room 252 of a $25-a-night hotel nearby, where he’d been living, scraping by on a…

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