News: Out of the Darkness
Story by Sgt. James Hale
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. - One thousand, eight hundred and forty five soldiers, family members and civilians gathered behind the 593rd Sustainment Brigade headquarters to show their support for the Army-wide suicide prevention month Sept. 27.
The 593rd along with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention hosted the Out of the Darkness Suicide Awareness Walk to provide information to the JBLM community and promote the importance of seeking help.
Along with hosting the walk, the 593rd welcomed representatives from facilities both on and off JBLM who provide help to Soldiers and civilians in the community dealing with the thoughts and effects of suicide.
"It's tragic to hear that more soldiers have died this year from suicide than from combat in Afghanistan," said Spc. Joseph Giles, a fuel handler with the 24th Quartermaster Company, 13th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion. "Having days like this is really important. It's especially cool to see that they have booths from off-post here since there are still soldiers that think going to mental health will affect their career."
Before starting the walk, the soldiers from the 593rd had the opportunity to visit the different booths to get information, free treats and play games. They also got to listen to live music being played by the I Corps "Tough Box" band.
Volunteers from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention shared their experiences with suicide and then talked the Soldiers through a presentation with necklaces made of beads and explained the significance of the different color beads.
"Twenty percent of all suicides nation-wide are from the military," said Suzan Zarit, a teacher for Port Angeles, Wash. "What we've seen at other military events that we've done is that a lot of military members are afraid to come forward and get the help that they need because they think it will come back to their command, so showing them the off-post options is great."
The walk began with Lt. Col. Ray Douglas Henry, commander of the 13th CSSB, leading the 593rd through the Out of the Darkness arch and on to the 3.2 mile course.
"The biggest importance of this is letting soldiers from across the ranks know that we do care about one another," said Henry. "For soldiers, who have suicidal thoughts, we want them to know its ok for them to seek care in either the military healthcare system, or off-post facilities and having representatives from these facilities shows them that not only does the DOD [Department of Defense] care about them, but all of America cares about them."
The event came to a close with the extinguishing of several candles symbolizing the lives that were lost to suicide during the short time it took the soldiers to walk the 3.2 miles.
"Every single suicide is a tragic loss to the Army family," said Henry. "No one in the unit or the community is untouched by the loss of a soldier to suicide. We are going to bring this problem out of the darkness and combat it with the same fervor as we do every enemy!"