Arlington Suicide Victim Was 92-Year-old AF Vet

Arlington Cemetery section 64

The man who killed himself last week at Arlington National Cemetery was a 92-year-old Air Force veteran whose wife was reportedly buried there.

The victim was identified as Robert Terrill, 92, of Falls Church, Virginia, who retired from the service as a colonel, according to a press release from the cemetery. Only cursory information about his service history was immediately available.

He received his military commission in 1946 and eventually became a command pilot, with more than 8,000 total flight hours, though retirement records don’t indicate whether he flew in combat or the type of aircraft he piloted, according to Michael Dickerson, a spokesman for the Air Force Personnel Center at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas, located outside San Antonio. He was promoted to colonel in 1959 and retired from a job at the Pentagon in 1968, Dickerson said.

A call to the National Archives’ National Personnel Records Center, which may house more information on his military career, wasn’t immediately returned.

Terrill shot himself around 10 a.m. June 20 near the Columbarium Courts in Section 64 of the cemetery. His wife, Helen Terrill, was buried in the same section in 2009, according to news reports and the cemetery's online gravesite database. Her obituary cites her as a past president of the National Guard Bureau Wives Club. 

Suicides are unheard of at the historic grounds just outside Washington, D.C. Officials said they weren’t aware of a similar incident ever happening there.

"This was a tragic day at Arlington National Cemetery and our heartfelt condolences go out to the family of Col. Terrill," Arlington National Cemetery Superintendent Jack Lechner said in the release. "We are grateful for his military service to our country."

Paramedics found Terrill with a single gunshot wound and determined him to be dead on site. A weapon of unspecified make and model was retrieved from the scene.

The Army's Criminal Investigation Command, the lead agency investigating the death, didn’t suspect foul play and described the incident as "tragic" and "isolated" with no threat to the public or those visiting the cemetery.

Military police and special agents, as well as Arlington County police, responded to the incident. Upwards of two dozen police cars and emergency rescue vehicles descended on the immediate area.

-- Brendan McGarry can be reached at

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