Raechel Richards walked into her Jacksonville, FL home on August 13 to find the love of her life, retired Marine sniper, Sgt. Robert Richards, lying dead on their floor. He was only 28 years old.
Rob Richards was too young to die. Strong, smart and kind—he had enormous talent and potential. He gave everything he had during his repeat deployments to Afghanistan during which he suffered severe IED-inflicted wounds and incurred TBI. Tragically, the cause of his death appears to be an adverse reaction to the drugs treating his pain and PTSD.
Most Americans have never heard Rob’s full story. I wish to honor him by fulfilling a wish he expressed while he was alive: that his story be widely shared for the sake of improving the lives of his fellow Marines and all our troops and veterans.
Rob gained undeserved notoriety when a coward and traitor leaked a private video to the media in January of 2012. The video clip showed Rob and three other Marines urinating on the dead bodies of Taliban thugs. Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the current administration immediately condemned Rob without taking the time to learn his full story.
Over a year ago, in May of 2013, I had the honor of getting to know Rob and his family and was privileged to be entrusted with telling his story in written form. Over the next several months, I interviewed the Richards’ family, friends and counsel (Guy Womack and Geoff Womack) many times.
I distinctly remember one beautiful fall day: September 26, 2013. The warm afternoon sun darted among leaves rustling in the breeze and dazzling in hues of orange, red and gold. I was outside enjoying a run after writing for most of the day. My iPhone buzzed, alerting me to a new email from Rob Richards. I had been waiting for this; I needed Rob’s approval before I could publish his story. Though I’d spent months researching and fine-tuning, I was a bit nervous to read his feedback because it was challenging to do Rob’s character justice with mere words.
Rob’s response revealed the strength of his moral fiber. He could have requested any sort of change to the story. After all, it was his story. Yet, he only expressed appreciation and humility. He wrote: “…your chapter is outstanding! Thank you again for just getting the story out there and let me know if you need anything else from me and I'll gladly assist you in anyway I can. Thank you.”