Commander focuses on suicide, provides division strong leadership
September 30, 2010
Fort Drum's commanding general walked to the middle of Memorial Park on Thursday morning, ordered several PT formations of Soldiers to fall out and asked them to assemble closely around him. In the crisp, predawn hours, they reflected on the lives of battle buddies who fought a fierce, cunning enemy and lost.
"Let me tell you something about suicide," said Maj. Gen. James L. Terry, 10th Mountain Division (LI) and Fort Drum commanding general, ahead of the post's 3rd annual Suicide Prevention Memorial Walk / Run. "Suicide impacts on everybody. ... (I) reach out personally to every person who I think is challenged and has stress in their life, who is approaching the point of taking their own life.
"And that's what I am asking each and every one of you to do," Terry added. "As leaders and as Soldiers, take care of each other. It's your buddies to your left and your right out there who know when you have got a problem. Take care of your battle buddy."
Suicide has become a major focus of Army leaders in recent years. Suicide rates have increased every year since 2005. More than 1,700 Soldiers attempted to take their own life last year; nearly 10 percent were successful.
At Fort Drum, the command emphasis on suicide awareness and prevention has been insistent.
"The 10th Mountain Division and Fort Drum have been very aggressive in the fight against suicide," said Charlene Smith, Fort Drum's Army Substance Abuse Program manager for the past two years. "We have brigade resiliency teams now set up. We have a wellness council set up. These things (help) us communicate on the installation between agencies and the units to make sure that we have all the services available for Soldiers, Families and Department of the Army civilians."
The mission of the Army Substance Abuse Program, the agency that sponsored the memorial walk, is to sustain the division's readiness by promoting a healthy lifestyle among Fort Drum Soldiers, Families, civilians and retirees.
"Someone struggling with depression needs to seek help," Smith said. "If someone just needs someone to talk to, they can walk into (a) chapel or the Behavioral Health building and find immediate help."
Smith also noted that community members can call the national suicide prevention's 24-hour hotline at (800) 273-TALK (8255).
For the hundreds who gathered Thursday morning, Terry explained the rationale of the memorial walk in a nutshell.
"The purpose today of this Suicide Awareness Memorial Walk is to remember our loved ones and our Mountain buddies who have taken their life," Terry said, "and to then increase our awareness about suicide, understand the stressors that are out there ... so we can take care of each other.
"Be Mountain strong, each and every one of you, and never accept defeat," Terry concluded. "(If) you get to this point of taking your own life, or if you're watching another Soldier being challenged by it, don't accept defeat.
"You take this message ... and you talk to your battle buddies, and you make sure we are doing what is right."