FORT SHAFTER, Hawaii - A senior soldier opens up about his personal triumphs and tribulations and how he overcame them, in order to help his fellow soldiers to do the same at Fort Shafter Flats, Hawaii, Sept. 30, 2012 during Suicide Awareness Stand Down Day.
Only one year ago Maj. George Corbari, force management officer, 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command (94th AAMDC) faced unspeakable hardships from suicide attempts to war injuries within his family.
Corbari was suddenly chosen to attend the Commanding General Staff College instead of going on an imminent deployment. He could have fought going to school, but he chose not to. It was a big decision for him because both his daughter and his son-in-law were in the same unit; he was looking forward to the deployment as all three expected to deploy together to Afghanistan.
While deployed with the brigade, his son-in-law lost both of his legs on a patrol. Corbari was still reeling from attempts by his son to take his own life only a couple of months earlier. This suicide attempt was his son's third; he tried to kill himself this time by cutting his neck with a broken bottle. Suicide attempts by family members were nothing new to Corbari - his mother had attempted suicide multiple times over the years. Another stressor he was struggling with at this same time was the ongoing difficult process of adopting a child from China.
Throughout all of these hardships and tribulations, Corbari has gained valuable insight from his experiences and always tries to apply that wisdom to his life today.
Corbari said, "The biggest thing I learned from my experiences - by the challenges we had supporting our son and my own personal battles with suicidal thoughts - was that people contemplating suicide lose the ability to rationally make decisions and that genuinely concerned people can make a difference.”
Just when his son seemed to be getting better and recovering from suicide attempts, his son got into a car accident when a woman ran a stop sign and broad-sided the car he was driving. His son was not seriously injured, but the car which had just been fixed up for him to take back to college was totaled. Emotionally, it was a setback for all.
Corbari later fell into his own suicidal depression, feeling that he was not able to even turn to his wife for help because of all the experiences that they had both been through in such a short amount of time. He didn’t want to burden her with his own personal problems, feeling like he would only be adding to the turmoil they were already experiencing.
Corbari said, “What made a difference for my son and I was that we realized that we mattered to people enough to make an effort to reach out to us. The people who genuinely cared about us and truly knew us made the effort to reach out to us, those same people understood that bad things happen to good people and they didn't judge us or think less of us because of our struggles.”
Today, Corbari hopes to use his experiences in his life to help other soldiers make it through any possible hardships they may have. More importantly, he wants to provide fellow Soldiers and leaders with the tools to be better prepared to help a comrade in need.
“My message is that as brothers and sisters in arms we need to take care of each other. To do that, I recommended three simple things: first, understand and believe that everyone matters and are worth your effort; secondly, genuinely care about your buddies, peers, subordinates and superiors by getting to really know them; and finally, understand that the enemy gets a vote. Bad things happen to good people and at some point, we all need help,” said Corbari.
Col. Gary Norris, Chaplain, 94th AAMDC, was present to hear Corbari tell his story to an audience. He was moved enough by Corbari to later remark, “A person sometimes ends up in their own long dark night of the soul. Other people can sometimes help this person. But to help, one cannot be afraid to reach into another's long dark night of the soul.”