Suicides in our ranks continue to be a critical challenge for our Army Family; and the numbers are simply staggering! In the first 155 days of the year, 154 of our fellow service members took their own lives. In July alone, 26 active-duty Soldiers took their own lives; 50 percent more than the number of lives lost in combat in Afghanistan.
Over the past several years, the Army’s programs, awareness campaigns and leader/Soldier involvement have helped bring forth the plight of our mission to combat suicides. One thing is clear: there is no cookie cutter solution. Combating this enemy requires everyone; all leaders, Soldiers, Family members and battle buddies. All must be involved and aware of the indicators and risk factors that contribute to suicide. As we get back to the basics in our Profession of Arms, we must not only focus on battlefield tactics, but also in leading and caring for our Soldiers and their Families.
Our Army is one of the most highly trained and lethal forces in the world, but we struggle to defeat this enemy. Contrary to what many believe, combat veterans and seasoned officers and NCO’s are not the only victims. Of the 26 suicides in July, 14 of the Soldiers’ deployment records were released. They showed that six had never deployed, seven had been deployed one to three times, and one had deployed six times.
During the month of September, our community will conduct a Suicide Prevention Stand-Down. The focus is to educate all leaders and Soldiers on the contributing factors of suicide and to promote physical, behavioral and spiritual care.
I encourage every member of the installation to participate in the “Shoulder to Shoulder: We Stand Up For Life” event on September 18th at Freedom Gym. Four different times are scheduled to maximize participation: 0800-1000, 1000-1200, 1300-1500, and 1500-1700. Family members are encouraged to attend. I challenge you all to learn about and recognize the risk factors, warning signs, and the intervention techniques that could ultimately save the life of a fellow brother or sister-in-arms.
LEAD, TRAIN, WIN