Soldier intervenes in suicide attempt
January 20, 2011
FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- Only about one week into Basic Combat Training, Pvt. Brian Serna, Company F, 1st Battalion, 34th Infantry Regiment, found himself in a life-or-death situation.
When the 19-year-old woke up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom, he walked in on something unexpected.
"I see one of my fellow privates, one of my battle buddies, (standing) against the wall," Serna said. "He was standing kind of weird, and I didn't really pay attention. As soon as I walked into the stall and closed it, he told me, 'Thank God you walked in. I was about to commit suicide.'"
Serna took quick action by jumping on the Soldier and taking away his shoestrings and belt, which the Soldier had tied together to create a rope. He then called out for help and stayed with the Soldier until drill sergeants and emergency responders arrived.
"That was a big adrenaline rush. I was very nervous," Serna said. "It took me by surprise. The whole week (after) it was on my mind, thinking, 'What would've happened if I'd woken up 10 minutes later'' ... That would've been something I would have regretted my whole life."
For his actions that day, Serna was awarded the Army Achievement Medal in a ceremony Dec. 15. Sgt. 1st Class Richard Love, one of Serna's drill sergeants, said he submitted him for the award not only to recognize Serna, but to raise awareness about the importance of suicide intervention.
"If we can spread that message to 200 and some Soldiers that this is important, and this is worthy of being recognized, then ... hopefully they spread it to at least one person and before you know it, it's spread," Love said.
Soldiers new to the Army first receive information about suicide intervention when they arrive at the reception battalion. In addition, each Soldier is issued an ACE card, which stands for "ask, care and escort."
Love said he was not surprised by Serna's actions.
"That's something I would expect from him," he said. "Pvt. Serna is a Soldier with a big heart."
Serna said that, in hindsight, he realizes that the Soldier, who is no longer in the Army, may have shown signs of being depressed or suicidal.
"He was always by himself when we all were in the bay talking," Serna said. "He showed the signs, but it's true, you don't really pay attention until the last minute."
Serna said he wishes the Soldier would have reached out to his battle buddies.
"I felt that if he would have talked to some of us, he would have fit in perfectly," he said.
Serna, who is from Covina, Calif., is scheduled to graduate Jan. 27 and will attend Advanced Individual Training at Fort Meade, Md. to become a visual information equipment operator and maintainer.