In honor of Veteran's Day, we would like to introduce our newest GEM Environmental STEM Scholarship, The 1st Annual Robert Graves Memorial Scholarship for Veterans in STEM. Andrina Shields, the mother of Robert Graves, has partnered with GEM to award a $1,500 scholarship to Veterans in STEM fields and to share Robbie’s story to help spread Veteran Suicide Awareness throughout our community.
Robert (Robbie) Graves was born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona. He is the oldest child of Andrina Shields and Robert Graves, he has a younger sister Taylore, and four half siblings. Robbie was always the life of the party and could make anyone laugh. He really loved teasing his little sister. In Grade School he was the lead in many plays, especially when there was singing parts. In Junior High, he was on the wrestling team and started a garage band with the neighborhood kids, in which of course he was the lead singer. During High School he enjoyed the independence of working and having his own money. He saved enough money to buy his first car, which was a 1990 Jeep Wrangler. Robbie attended Greenway Highschool and graduated at a charter school in the area. After high school, Robbie joined the United States Air Force, and began his journey into adulthood.
At the age of 12, Robbie watched with his mother as the second plane hit the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001. This is when he proclaimed that he would join the Military. He chose the United States Air Force to follow in his Father’s footsteps and chose the field of logistics. Robbie was stationed in Japan right out of basic training, this is where he met his future wife, she was also in the Air Force. He was deployed to Iraq in 2011, where he spent his 21st birthday. After this deployment, Robbie and his wife were stationed at Grand Forks Air Force Base in North Dakota where he finished out his four years of service and decided not to re-enlist. During this time, Robbie became a father to his beautiful son, Michael, and worked very hard to become a Train Conductor for BNSF Railroad. Life seemed to be going great for the young family.
Soon after he started working for the railroad, Robbie and his wife divorced. He was having a very hard time transitioning to a life outside the Military and the couple could not make their relationship work any longer. After the divorce, Robbie seemed to be doing well. He had a wonderful relationship with his son, a great job, and he even purchased his first home. It was not until April 2017, when he was five years out of the Air Force, that Robbie started showing signs of PTSD. Robbie’s family was still in Arizona and the signs of self-medication, self-isolation, insomnia, and anger outbursts were not known until it was almost too late. After his family became aware of this, they were able to get him to Arizona with hopes of finding a treatment program.
This is when it was discovered that Robbie wasn’t on drugs or alcohol, he had nothing in his system. Robbie was diagnosed and suffering from Manic, Chronic, PTSD. With little knowledge of this condition, and few available resources, Robbie’s family worked hard to find support for his condition until the very end. On Memorial Day 2017, Robbie lost his battle to PTSD and died by suicide.
“Living a life without Robbie is a daily journey. There is a hole that will never be filled, and a heartbreak that will never heal. The devastation of losing someone to suicide is far greater than one could ever imagine. Families are left with guilt, judgement, and grief beyond comprehension. Suicide has a ripple effect and statistically, every suicide causes at least one other suicide. The stigma is so great and many times families are left very alone simply because others don’t know how to comprehend this type of grief. As a result, families feel isolated and grief stricken without much support. I believe the only way to move forward is to help others. By helping others and yourself, the grief somehow, with time, has meaning by honoring your loved one.”
- Andrina Shields, Mother of Robbie
Robbie’s careers in logistics, and the railroad, were both heavily impacted by STEM. Because of this, and to help Veterans who are transitioning out of the Military, Andrina felt this scholarship would be a wonderful way to honor Robbie’s life. To learn more, or to apply for this scholarship, click here. All applications will go through a review process and the award recipient will be chosen directly by Andrina Shields.
TO APPLY FOR THIS SCHOLARSHIP CLICK HERE.
TO DONATE DIRECTLY TO THE ROBERT GRAVES MEMORIAL SCHOLARSHIP FUND CLICK HERE AND DESIGNATE TO THE ROBERT GRAVES FUND.
If you, or someone you know, is suffering from PTSD or suicidal thoughts please reach out for help! Here is a list of many organizations that can offer assistance:
Tragedy Assistance Program For Survivors T.A.P.S
Operation Restored Warrior
Combat Vet Vision
The Pipe Hitter Foundation – helping find justice for our brave men and women
PTSD Foundation of America – Weekly warrior groups for Combat Vets and Camp Hope
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline