A Dream Come True Ends in Suicide for Soldier
The roadside bomb blasted the safety hatch and blew away the windshields on the heavy transport that Army Pfc. Kimberly Agar rode across Iraq during the 2007 surge. As she regained her composure, insurgents rained rocket-propelled grenades and small-arms fire on the convoy for about 15 minutes. Agar climbed into the back seat and returned fire as the convoy pushed through the ambush.
Agar’s group didn’t suffer fatalities in that attack but she was diagnosed as having a concussion after she complained of headaches and insomnia, about a day after the bombing.
About a year later, Agar finished her 15-month deployment and went home to Dallas for a two-week break before returning to Fort Benning, Ga. Her mother, Margy Agar, though, noticed her daughter was different, saying she was distant, withdrawn and not “my Kimi anymore.”
In 2009, Kimberly Agar re-enlisted and was posted to Germany, a place she had always wanted to visit. There, the talented vocalist who swept pageants in her childhood and teen years eventually made the U.S. Army Europe Band and Chorus, singing with the elite, selective military musical troupe that performs at diplomatic and military events.
It was a job that the younger Kimberly would have envied — getting paid to travel the world as an entertainer. Agar told everyone it was her dream gig. But there were lingering effects of her injuries, fragile emotions and even a suicide attempt.
Early in October 2011, Agar killed herself in Germany after struggling with a minor traumatic brain injury.
Agar was one of 301 military suicides in 2011, according to the Department of Defense. In 2012, the number of suicides climbed to 350, exceeding combat deaths that year.
Unlike many combat veterans interviewed in this project, the singer-turned-soldier made the decision to stay in the military, continuing a career she loved.
Memory loss, anxiety and insomnia followed Agar from Iraq to Dallas to Germany.
Agar was born in Dallas, Nov. 25, 1985. She and her two brothers grew up in Texas.
Margy Agar called Kimberly “her joy.” She always was energetic and passionate about entertaining people, her mother said. When she was younger, Kimberly’s plans were to move to California and pursue an entertainment career, Margy Agar said.
Kimberly Agar traveled around Texas competing in pageants and singing her heart out. On her bedside wall, she posted photos of all the famous people she met. In 1996, she performed at the White House with a youth group.
Jessica Edwards was her best friend in school. They had sleepovers, gushed over boys and listened to country singers, Edwards said. LeAnn Rimes was Agar’s favorite.
Agar’s voice was one of her trademarks, Edwards said. During school performances, Agar confidently belted solos. She was not only talented, but also beautiful, Edwards said. Everyone knew her and she didn’t have any enemies.
But Agar’s apparently happy childhood was marred by her parents’ separation when she was 13 and divorce when she was 16, Margy Agar said. It was around that time that Kimberly and her father argued during a phone conversation. Afterward Kimberly cut her wrist in front of her mother.
That was her first suicide attempt, but it was more a “cry for help” than anything else, Margy Agar said. Kimberly took her father's leaving very hard.
After high school, Kimberly attended Tarrant County College, but her dyslexia made school life difficult. She quit to work on singing, but when her older brother joined the Air Force in July 2006, she was inspired to serve. Agar joined the Army in October of that year, and by July 2007 was deployed to Iraq.
Agar drove heavy equipment, massive semis that primarily moved tanks across the country, said Sgt. Mitchell Amos, her platoon sergeant.
It’s a job with little sleep, traveling from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. over some of the most dangerous roads in Iraq during her 15-month deployment, Amos said.
“Mentally, it was destructive,” he said.
Agar didn’t open up about her injuries and depression until she got back to Georgia with her company. Amos told her to seek help, then join a military chorus so she could resume singing.
Things did get better for Agar after she re-enlisted and went to Germany, those interviewed said.
There, she refueled helicopters and met her new best friend, Sarah Hough. Agar did everything she could for the people she came across and she loved to try new things, Hough said. They spent evenings and weekends shopping, drinking and doing “normal stuff.”
Agar didn’t speak often of the injuries she suffered in Iraq, or anything else bothering her. If she did talk about it, it was vague, Hough said.
In February 2011, Agar applied for the elite U.S. Army Europe Band and Chorus. After the 30-day process she was selected as a vocalist. It marked her return to traveling, singing and dancing.
“When she made the chorus she was on cloud nine,” her mother said. “She thanked God for living her dream getting paid to do what she loved.”
Agar’s performances earned her the Coin of Excellence from the Afghanistan Minister of Defense. She also was selected as the chorus assistant dance choreographer, according to her obituary written by the chorus Chain of Command.
But the job wasn’t perfect.
Michael Webb, a retired Army sergeant and former band and chorus member, said the troupe was akin to “a fraternity.” Chorus members would bully one another, he said, about their performances and sometimes there was professional jealousy.
“They really let you have it. From what I can see from my perspective, maybe they were a little too hard,” Webb said.
Fearing the critiques would get her kicked out of the chorus, Agar became unreasonably critical of herself, paranoid that she would lose her job in the chorus, according to sworn statements in Army records.
Besides close friends, nobody at the time knew Agar was struggling with injuries from her deployment, Webb said.
On Sept. 6, 2011, after a harsh critique from a chorus member, Agar sent her mother a Facebook message.
“It said, ‘Mom, just remember I will always love you,’” Margy Agar said.
After several phone calls, Margy Agar was told her daughter had overdosed and was found with her wrists cut while sad music played in the background.
Kimberly Agar was taken to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Landstuhl, Germany, where she stayed for 11 days. Her doctor wrote “patient is likely unfit for service.”
Agar returned to her barracks, but requested a move to a higher floor. This floor only had one other person living on it and she was isolated from her friends. She was back to work two weeks after her suicide attempt, Margy Agar said.
Webb saw her once after the attempt.
“I remember coming to formation in the morning. I walked by her and she looked kind of down and out of it,” Webb said. “Why couldn’t they tell us, her friends, that she [attempted suicide] so we could help her. Once I knew everything, I felt bad.”
On Sept. 30, 2011, an argument among chorus members prompted a meeting, scheduled for the following Monday. Over the weekend, Agar and some friends went shopping; it was the last time she was seen alive, Margy Agar said.
Kimberly’s death so devastated Margy Agar that she now suffers from depression and post-traumatic stress. She won’t say how her daughter died.
“Sometimes I feel like she is still in Germany,” Agar said.