Camp Pendleton Marine Cpl. Matthew Comer pledged to run in races in memory of his brother and to raise awareness of mental illness and suicide prevention.
Comer, 22, lost his 25-year-old brother Ryan DeBrango to suicide on Nov. 28, 2012. An avid runner and former high school football player, DeBrango had struggled with depression and drug and alcohol addition.
Comer participated in the SoCal Super Spartan on Saturday at Vail Lake Resort in Temecula. The eight-mile obstacle race was his first since his brother's passing.
“I did this race for him, but it also helps me out,” said Comer, who has been in the military for more than four years. “He was a really good brother. He always protected me.”
Comer raced alongside Chris Scott, a close friend of the brothers. The pair wore T-shirts with a picture of DeBrango and his son. Comer’s wife, Kayla Comer, volunteered and helped check-in participants. Deborah DeBrango, mother of Matthew and Ryan, couldn’t attend the race, but supported her son from her home in Virginia.
“I think it’s a real touching tribute,” Deborah said. “He’s doing this to honor his brother and honor his family, to keep his memory alive, and to bring awareness to others that it doesn’t have to end that way.”
More than 38,000 people in the U.S. die from suicide every year, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. Deborah, who is raising Ryan's 4-year-old son, said she hopes others will learn about suicide prevention from Matthew's tribute to his brother.
“Ryan was a very gifted person,” she said. “His mental depression, it just couldn’t go away. It didn’t go away. I think in this country, we have to have more psychologists and psychiatrists, and more access.”
Because he lives so far from home, Comer said he was not fully aware how much his brother had been struggling with depression. Already training for his next run, the Rock 'n' Roll Pasadena Half Marathon on Feb. 17, Comer urged others to “not take things for granted.”
“People don’t understand how valuable life is—how many support and love them until it’s over,” he said.