News: What makes a hero
CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan – "Lance Cpl. Burson did an extraordinary thing. He saved a life. He saved a Marine in distress. He acted. He is a hero."
Sgt. Maj. Micheal P. Barrett, Sgt. Maj. of 1st Marine Expeditionary Force (FWD), spoke with confidence while speaking of Lance Cpl. Jonathan T. Burson's recent actions.
Twenty-one-year-old, Burson, from Pensacola, Fla. and assigned to 1st Intelligence Battalion, I MEF (FWD), was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal April 17 here for preventing a Marine's suicide.
It all started April 4 at the chow hall on Camp Leatherneck.
"I sat down and started eating. About halfway through my sandwich I noticed a Marine sitting over at a table by himself and he was crying," said Burson. "I walked over there and asked him what was up."
Burson goes on, "We talked about what was going on in his life, what's going on back home and what he was doing out here."
Burson and the Marine talked for several hours and set up a time to meet for dinner the next night. As they talked for the second time, the distressed Marine trusted Burson enough to show him a piece of gear he had and what he was planning on doing to himself with it.
"That's when I got worried," said Burson. "I asked for him to give me the thing he was going to use. He did."
Even though Burson had basic suicide prevention training, he made the decision to report the incident and get the Marine help.
"I'm glad he is getting the help that he needs," said Burson.
Burson said that he has been able to talk to that Marine since the incident and the distressed Marine is happier and better off now than when he had first met him.
Suicide is not uncommon in the Marine Corps. In 2008, 42 Marines took their own lives, in 2009, 52 Marines committed suicide and 12 Marines already this year.
More Marines died in 2009 of suicide than combat related deaths in Afghanistan.
"One is too many. There are 203,000 Marines right now standing ready to help their buddy," said Barrett.
Marines who take their own lives cause massive setbacks within their commands and everyone around them.
Barrett says that a suicide in a command affects troop readiness, morale, motivation and espirit de corps. That unit's world stops spinning as they all wonder what went wrong and what they missed. Each command works hard to let their Marines, their sailors, and their buddies know that they are there for them.
"Some Marines fight different battles," said Burson.
He hopes that this situation will help Marines in the future to be more perceptive to what is going on around them and become more compassionate toward others.
"You see a Marine in distress. If you see something that's not right about a Marine, just stop, listen and give him all the support you can give. That's all it takes," said Barrett.
Burson's heroic actions earned him his Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal. While other Marines passed him by, Burson stopped, and with a few simple words, ended up saving a troubled Marine's life.
"I know a lot of Marines might think it is a weakness to cry or try to seek help in situations like that, but at the same time, we all need help in one way or another," said Burson.
Date Posted:04.24.2010 11:44
Location:CAMP LEATHERNECK, AF
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