By Gabrielle Fonrouge and Max Jaeger, NEW YORK POST
While folks nationwide fire up the barbecues for the Memorial Day holiday, a military family is scrambling to find its missing soldier daughter.
Former Army military police officer Ashley Meiss, 30, left her Ogden, Kansas, home for a jog on May 17 without her keys, wallet or phone, and hasn’t been heard from since two days later — when she called a friend from a blocked number and told her she was feeling down about a messy ongoing divorce and child-custody battle.
Family and friends fear Meiss set out to harm herself, and are pleading with her to come home.
“She’s loved and the family needs to hear from her,” worried dad Tom Lewis told the Post by phone from Meiss’s Kansas home.
“She’s got two beautiful children that need their mother.
“My gut tells me that there’s something really wrong here. You don’t just leave like that — especially not my daughter. If she’s here, she’s not alive — and if she’s gone, we have no idea where at or who she could be with.”
Lewis, a retired Marine who flew to Kansas from his North Carolina home to aid the search last week, will spend his Memorial Day flying back home with his 4- and 6-year-old grandkids so they won’t be exposed to the drama of their missing mother.
“The kids have no idea what’s going on,” he said. “The kids are gonna come stay with us for like the next six weeks.”
(Learn More. Courtesy of Rojas Aguirre and YouTube. Posted on May 27, 2018)
Meiss’s brother Chris said he’s spending the day trawling Facebook for leads on his missing sibling.
The holiday can be particularly hard on veterans, for whom the somber day can summon up memories of fallen comrades.
“It’s definitely a very stressful time. We do a lot of reflections, veterans, on people we served with,” said Paul Neubecker, who was stationed with Meiss in Germany.
“I’m just desperate to not lose another friend on Memorial Day weekend.”
He’s lost six comrades to suicide or service-related mental health issues since 2011, including one around Memorial Day, he said.
Meiss has been battling PTSD as she also slogs through a divorce and child-custody battle with her active-duty husband, her dad said.
But Lewis said his daughter sounded fine when he talked to her the day before she went missing, and her therapist also told the dad Meiss seemed OK in the days leading up to her disappearance.
She left her home May 17 to go running without so much as a phone.
“She left her phone, all her identification, financial stuff, her dog — which is extremely uncharacteristic to leave her dog at home when she goes on a run,” the dad said.
“She prepares for everything,” the brother added. “She keeps notes on everything — this is extremely bizarre.”
Meiss was spotted the next day at a post office, where she received one letter that appeared to contain bad news, her dad said.
Later, she showed up at a community center where she had previously volunteered, Lewis said. Some people reported seeing her at a bar later that evening, according to Neubecker.
“The postal clerk knew for sure that it was Ashley,” he said, explaining she’s conspicuous in the 2,000-person town because of her tattoos and partially shaved head.
“She had one piece of mail, read that mail and her demeanor changed, so it was probably bad news of some sort.”
But, she had not yet been reported missing, so her appearance didn’t raise any flags.
But on Saturday, she phoned an old Army buddy from a blocked number, and told the friend “she was really feeling down about everything” — the divorce, the custody battle, her dad said.
That was the last time anyone heard from her.
“On Sunday, she had visitation with her kids and she missed that,” Lewis said. “For her not to show up for the visitation, there’s something wrong. She would never miss that.”
Police could not trace the phone number she called from, but Chris said the family is holding out hope, because her Facebook account indicated someone had been using her account, and only the family and police have access to it, Chris said.
The family is now offering a $5,000 reward for information on her whereabouts.
“She stayed somewhere Thursday, she stayed somewhere Friday,” Chris said, hoping someone who took her in would come forward.
They’ve also started a GofundMe page to hire a private investigator. If news takes a turn for the worst, the money will be used for Meiss’s children’s’ college fund, the brother explained.
If you have seen Ashley or have any information regarding her possible whereabouts – Please call the Riley County Police Department at (785) 537-2112 – or Crime Stoppers at (785) 539-7777.
Message from GoFundMe:
Hello my name is Chris Lewis and I am Ashley Meiss’s brother.
Ashley is a Army Veteran whom has gone missing after she went on a jog Thursday May 17th at approx 6:00pm in Ogden Kansas.
She is very missed by many and including her two very young children.
The Riley count police dept have not been able to obtain any valuable information so I’m taking it upon myself to create this go fund me page to raise money for a CASH REWARD FOR ANYONE WHO CAN DIRECTLY HELP MYSELF FIND HER or lead us to her regardless of the outcome.
If Ashley is not found which I hope is not the case I will hold the funds for her children graduation fund.
Any help would be greatful and let’s get Ashley found. ANY INFORMATION GIVEN TO ME WILL BE HELD PRIVATELY IF ASKED. Thank you so much.