Soldiers and Department of Defense civilians at Fort Belvoir experienced the importance of responsible drinking through a comedy show, Thursday at the installation's Community Center.
The "Happy Hour" Comedy tour featured comedian Bernie McGrenahan delivering his message of responsible drinking and taking advantage of the counseling resources the Army provides Soldiers and DoD civilians.
The Fort Belvoir Army Substance Abuse Program office organized McGrenahan's two stand-up routine performances.
"I do the tour in hopes that Soldiers will be responsible and smart," said McGrenahan. "If you find yourself dealing with stress, post-traumatic stress disorder or mission stress, don't resort to alcohol and drug use. Talk to ASAP, Army Community Service and the chaplains about your stress. Don't be afraid to talk, because it doesn't mean you are weak if you do."
Each show began with a 30-minute comedy skit by McGrenahan followed by a one-hour personal testimony of McGrenahan's personal struggles with alcohol and drug abuse, and how the alcohol and drug related suicide of his 19-year old brother 24 years ago furthered his downward spiral.
Hearing such a personal testimony surrounded by light-hearted laughter was fun for the several hundred Soldiers who attended both shows, according to Sgt. Adam Cunningham, Fort Belvoir Community Hospital medical logistics noncommissioned officer.
"I liked learning his life story and listening to what he went through," said Cunningham. "I thought he was going to talk about using hard drugs, but the fact that he said alcohol was very informative. I know people that have dealt with alcohol abuse."
Finding out that McGrenahan started drinking in the 8th grade and by the time he was a senior in high school he was drinking multiple nights a week was stunning to Cunningham. All he was thinking about as a teenager was getting his homework done.
"I was doing homework in the 8th grade, I couldn't imagine drinking at that young of an age," said Cunningham. "At 18 I was joining the military and at 19 I was getting ready to deploy. I can't imagine partying hard at that age."
Hearing McGrenahan talk about his struggle with alcohol and drugs, plus losing his brother to suicide, was eye-opening and personal for Sgt. 1st Class A.J. Dominguez, Fort Belvoir Community Hospital senior enlisted leader of the Warrior Family Coordinator Center.
"I thought about some of the bad choices I've made in my life and the risks we put other people at when we make bad choices," said Dominguez. "Hearing him talking about his brother taking his own life, I've had Family and friends that have done the same, so you never know what someone is truly going through."
Taking advantage of the resources on post is the most important part of McGrenahan's message, said Dominguez. All Soldiers deal with stress, according to Dominguez, but none of them should ever deal with that stress in a destructive manner.
"Get help when you need help," said Dominguez. "Don't take the easy way out and resort to drugs and alcohol. We all have problems of some sort, so get the help that you need. There are resources out there."
McGrenahan has performed his show at nearly 200 military installations duiring the last six years. He hopes to open some eyes, but also to show servicemembers how much he appreciates the sacrifices they make for the nation's freedom.
"I never served, but I don't take my freedom for granted," said McGrenahan. "I want to thank the troops for what they are sacrificing for our freedom. I love every single one of them."