News: Aviation maintenance company remembers fallen comrade with suicide awareness run/walk
Story by Staff Sgt. Todd Pouliot
KHOWST PROVINCE, Afghanistan – “Until it hits you, you don’t realize that suicide is around you all the time,” said U.S. Army Capt. Christopher McFarland, commander of 10th Combat Aviation Brigade’s D Company, 1st Attack/Reconnaissance Battalion, Task Force Tigershark. “Every 13 minutes a person in America takes their life.”
Suicide affects a large segment of our population. According to Department of Defense statistics, a member of the U.S. military commits suicide nearly every 17 hours. In the Army, the effects of suicide can be far-reaching due to the close relationships among its members.
Soldiers from D Co., 1-10 Attack/ Reconnassiance Battalion, conducted a Remembrance Run/Walk Sept. 7, at Forward Operating Base Salerno, to raise suicide prevention awareness and to remember a fallen comrade.
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Francisco Andrade and his wife, Maria Guadalupe Andrade, a former soldier, met Joshua Taylor during AH-64 Apache helicopter maintainer advanced individual training in 2005. The three of them completed AIT together, were assigned to D Company, 3rd Attack/Reconnaissance Battalion, 3rd CAB, deployed to Iraq in 2008-2009, and after redeployment, moved to Fort Drum, N.Y., where the unit was redesignated 1st Attack/Reconnaissance Battalion, 10th CAB, TF Tigershark.
Maria Guadalupe Andrade completed her enlistment and left the Army, and in 2010, Staff Sgt. Andrade and Taylor, who was a sergeant at the time, deployed to Afghanistan with TF Tigershark. When the unit returned a year later, Taylor had decided to complete his enlistment and become a civilian.
Andrade said he received the news from Taylor’s former first sergeant that he had taken his life about a month after he left the unit.
“I called my wife immediately and informed her,” Andrade recalled. “To both her and I it was like losing a family member.”
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention conducts suicide awareness walks across U.S. college campuses each year. Maria Guadalupe Andrade decided to participate in one such event at a campus in Utica, N.Y., by forming a team to raise money in the name of their fallen friend. She and her husband discussed it over Facebook and he told her he would run whatever distance she planned to do.
When McFarland, who had been Taylor’s platoon leader during the previous deployment, heard what Maria Guadalupe Andrade and her husband were doing, he decided to organize a Remembrance Walk/Run for U.S. Army Sgt. Joshua Taylor; not only to honor his memory, but to raise awareness for suicide prevention. He said he wasn’t really surprised by the number of soldiers who participated.
“We’re a really close-knit unit,” McFarland said. “At this time in our deployment with my formation right now, I wanted to pass it along that someone’s always there to give you a hand. Of course we’re continually driving hard but if you have to take a knee, let someone know; a chaplain, a mental health provider, somebody’s out there to listen to you. You may be the only one to notice and be able to intervene.”
Nearly 100 soldiers woke up before sunrise for the 4-mile run/walk which opened with a prayer by TF Tigershark U.S. Army Chaplain (Capt.) Wonhyo Kim. McFarland spoke about his memories of Taylor, the purpose of the event, and encouraged all in attendance to look out for one another and to seek help if necessary.
Soldiers who wished to share their personal experiences of losing someone close to them articulated the pain left behind after a suicide. Two soldiers shared their personal experiences. Andrade spoke of his and his wife’s friend and former member of the unit, and how difficult it was to come to grips with his suicide. U.S. Army Sgt. Lindsey Schroeder, a production control noncommissioned officer, lost her mother to suicide at a young age and spoke of the pain of losing her.
“It was painful to talk about,” Schroder said in an email. “That was the first time in 14 years that I have talked about it in a public setting. My mother was a veteran herself, and would appreciate that her story is being used to help raise awareness with troops,”
Once the runners made their way to the starting line, a moment of silence was recognized, and then they were off.
“Honestly, I initially only expected that just me and a few others would run,” Andrade said. “It gave me a really great feeling to see so many came out to show some commemoration for one of our fallen comrades and bring about more suicide awareness.”
Andrade’s wife’s goal was to raise about $500. She ended up raising $1,425.00 which will be donated to The American Foundation for Suicide Awareness in Sgt. Joshua Taylor’s name.
This work, Aviation maintenance company remembers fallen comrade with suicide awareness run/walk, by SSG Todd Pouliot, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.