Post stands up to suicide
October 4, 2012
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (October 4, 2012) -- More than 3,000 Fort Rucker Soldiers ran along a 3-mile route lined with 232 pairs of combat boots that represented comrades in arms who took their own lives in the past year during the post's suicide prevention stand down Sept. 27.
Maj. Gen. Kevin W. Mangum, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker commanding general, led the formation, and then addressed the assembled Soldiers as part of Fort Rucker's response to the Army-directed suicide prevention worldwide stand down. The day also included suicide prevention and awareness training at the post theater.
Mangum, who said that the run was about promoting wellness and resilience and reminding Soldiers that there are resources that can help them when they need it, ran with the formation from beginning to end.
"Today our Army is doing a suicide prevention stand down to recognize that nearly every day this year we have lost a Soldier who has taken his or her own life. As we run I want you to think about the sets of boots that line the roadway. Each one of those sets of boots represents a Soldier, a battle buddy, a comrade in arms who has taken his or her life this year," he said.
The run, according to the Mangum, addressed three dimensions of comprehensive Soldier fitness: physical, to build physical toughness; mental, to build mental toughness and confidence; and emotional, to build esprit de corps.
Mangum also reminded Soldiers that it is their responsibility to take care of their buddies if they see someone who needs help.
"Think about the gravity of the situation we are in with our Army and our suicide rate. In more than 230 cases, somebody knew that something was wrong. Somebody intervened in some of those, but in most nobody did. You can do something about it, whether it is seeking care yourself, or if you see your buddy hurting, helping them find the care they need," he reminded.
He wanted each Soldier to fully comprehend just how many Soldiers have taken their lives this year. To push the message through, he had a company of more than 230 men and women march onto the parade field as a visual reminder of the Soldiers lost to suicide.
"That's what it looks like in [a] formation. I ask that you do your part to do your best to ensure that we have not one more. Not one more! There are a lot of misconceptions about suicide -- that it's young Soldiers or Soldiers who have deployed. All of those are false. This year Soldiers who have taken their lives range from private to colonel. Every one of us needs someone to look after us. So please take care of yourself and each other," he said.
The commander then opened up about how the morning's run had affected him.
"When I saw them setting those boots out this morning on my run here, it brought more than one tear to my eye, that my comrades in arms are taking their own lives. We have a ton of resources that people can access. People need to know what those resources are. They are there for Soldiers and Families to use them," he said.
The event was the first time Fort Rucker participated in a post-wide stand down for suicide, and Mangum said he would try to keep it going so that Soldiers and the community would keep the issue on their minds.
"It takes everybody in the community to put their arms around each other to take care of those that they see are depressed. It is not a sign of weakness to seek mental health; it shows strength to seek help. Those are injuries, too," he said.
Though Mangum was happy about the morale the run built, he was aware of the impact that the boots along the street made.
"I think it was a powerful message, seeing those boots and the Soldiers in formation. Hopefully it got somebody's attention, somebody who was thinking about hurting themselves," he finished.