AIR FORCE ACADEMY — On Tuesday, a United States Air Force Academy graduate and veteran returned to the academy, but not to discuss his time in the service.
Instead, Chris Didier talked about his son.
"I have three children, and my youngest is Zach, and we lost him on December 27, 2020. Two days after Christmas," Didier told the auditorium filled with cadets graduating in 2026.
Zach Didier, 17, died as a result of fentanyl poisoning. He was a straight-A student, a record-setting track star, and talented musician with no prior history of drug use.
Zach and his friends purchased what they believed were percocet pills, but they were counterfeit and contained fentanyl. After a normal evening, watching Christmas movies with his family, Zach died on December 27, 2020.
"When you are dealing with the loss of a child, it is at the top of any good parent's grief hierarchy, but when it's the loss of a child from a danger you've never heard of before, it sets in a tremendous amount of confusion and disorientation," said Didier, who had no idea what fentanyl was until his son's death.
Didier returned to his alma mater to warn cadets, and everyone else, about the dangers of illicit pills. He has shared his story all over the country.
"We can choose to use our pain to build a fortress, to hide from the world, or we can use our pain to be a fuel to changing," said Didier.
After his presentation, cadets shook hands with Didier, thanking him for sharing his story and confiding that some of them lost friends in similar ways.
"Having been a graduate, I know the stress and the rigors of the curricular he in the cadet wing, and what the cadets are exposed to," said Didier, trying to prevent cadets from turning to drugs as a coping mechanism.
Didier also hands out cards labeled "One Pill Can Kill". These cards can fit in a wallet and have a list of emergency resources on the back:
- Crisis Hotline: Text 741741 for 24/7 help
- Crisis Chat: Crisischat.org
- Suicide Crisis Line: Dial 988 or 800-852-8336
- Say Something: Saysomething.net or Dial 844-572-9669
- Domestic Violence Hotline: Dial 714-935-7956
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