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The government was supposed to take care of mentally disabled Marine combat veteran Brian Callan. It didn't.

Callan spent many hours in his last years with longtime family friend Jill Brooks, a Tempe single mother of two who is a supervisor at a local urgent-care center.

"He was a best friend to me and a lot of people, even though every day was a big struggle for him because of the PTSD," says Brooks, who adopted Callan's golden retriever, Angel, after he died. "He was a very, very thoughtful guy, and our conversations were a reality check for both of us. He'd mention to me about not being able to sleep some nights, about being easily agitated, raw emotions all the time. But he was nothing but kindhearted and loyal to me."

Brooks says she and Callan went to see Black Hawk Down months after it was released last year: "I said, You sure you want to see this? I don't want you to friggin' wig out on me.' He was stiff as a board watching it. There was stone silence in the car afterward. I told him that I had a totally different respect for him. To his dying day, all he wanted was respect from those around him."

Brian Callan posed with his new Toyota Tacoma a few hours after he leased it from Bell Road Toyota last August 31.
courtesy of Jerri Glover
Brian Callan posed with his new Toyota Tacoma a few hours after he leased it from Bell Road Toyota last August 31.
Jerri Glover visited her oldest child's grave in Cave Creek on November 10, the day before Veterans' Day.
Jackie Mercandetti
Jerri Glover visited her oldest child's grave in Cave Creek on November 10, the day before Veterans' Day.

In San Diego last February, Callan finally underwent the long-delayed second operation that stemmed from his Somalian peacekeeping injury. The rehabilitation promised to be long and taxing, and Callan decided to spend his second consecutive summer with brothers Bob and Tim in Taos, New Mexico.

In the previous summer of 2001, Callan had been able to work for Bob, who builds custom homes there. He let everyone know how much he'd enjoyed putting in a day's work, and how badly he wanted to be part of an unspecified brotherly business venture in the future.

But Callan was doing poorly as he prepared to travel to New Mexico for the summer. On May 16, he met for what turned out to be the final time with VA nurse Kathleen Monroe.

"I am so angry,'" Monroe later quoted Callan in a "progress note." "If it wasn't a problem, I would just go out and shoot everybody.'"

Curiously, she added in the very next sentence: "Denies wanting to hurt self or others. Is enraged, however, and is finding it difficult to cope with his anger."

That day, Dr. Grant doubled Callan's dosage of Tegretol for anger management, and added a new drug called Hydroxyzine -- a Benedryl-like medicine with a slightly sedating effect. The doctor's notes say he then told Callan he'd next see him in September.

"There was an underlying tone of depression all summer," recalls his brother Bob. "Brian was talking about different things with the VA, all the drugs he was on, about his life in general, and his frustration about not being able to work. At that point, he could not be a man in his own mind, but he kept trying to persevere, push uphill."

Callan returned to Phoenix on August 14, and enrolled in a real estate class at Mesa Community College. It started August 26, and Callan jotted personal notes to himself as he sat in the classroom that first day:

"Beginning: Heart racing. Very nervous. Stomach upset, headache, very tense. Want to run. People with cellphones on piss me off. End: Muscles tense, feeling very angry. Stressed."

Later that week, Callan planned to attend the ASU football team's first home game August 31 with longtime family friend Peggy Hutchens.

"Of course he wanted to go to the game," says Hutchens, who teaches at a Phoenix elementary school. "We always went to the first game together. Brian was the epitome of a Marine, and everything he did, he did with gusto. But he just could not produce at that point, and that was so hard for him."

The two made plans to get a bite to eat that Saturday night at a Tempe hot dog joint, then go to Sun Devil Stadium. But Callan had something else to do before the game.

Shortly after noon on August 31, Brian Callan drove 30 miles in his black 1994 Chevy S-10 Blazer to Bell Road Toyota. He was debating whether to trade in the Blazer for a Toyota truck he'd been looking at, a Tacoma four-door extra-cab.

Bob Callan says he got a call that day in Taos from his oldest brother, who told him he was at the dealership.

"He said at first that he didn't know if he wanted to buy, lease or do nothing at all," Bob Callan says. "We talked over the financial options for a little while, and I told him I'd be behind whatever he decided. Then he said he had to go because they were coming to talk to him."

Guides to buying or leasing automobiles suggest strongly not to seal any deals on the first day, and not to let a sales team know at first that you have a potential trade-in vehicle. Like many other consumers, however, Brian Callan had broken both rules.

That afternoon, Callan left the following voice message at his brother Bob's home:

"Hey, Bob, it's me. I just about got the vehicle. I've leased it. I don't know if it's a good deal. I got three days to change my mind, so hopefully I'll get to talk to you. I'm sure I'll get an earful from the rest of the family. Bye."

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