FORT STEWART, Ga. -- Soldiers throughout the 3rd Infantry Division participated in an Affirmation of Life event hosted by the 3rd ID Artillery at Fort Stewart, Georgia, July 20.
Capt. Romia Freeman, a behavioral health officer from 3rd ID Artillery, said the idea for Affirmation of Life stemmed from a routine suicide prevention training plan but with a more positive twist. It focuses on the importance of life and why each day is valuable.
The event kicked off with a physical training competition between companies. Each company wore their unit training shirt to represent their unit.
"Soldiers build resilience through athleticism, and we wanted them to know it's more than just working out," Freeman said. "It's about coming together, building comradery and learning that you're not alone."
After the physical training session, everyone gathered at Newman Gym to discuss the meaning of life.
Spc. John Calderon, a fire control specialist from 1st Battalion, 9th Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd ID Artillery, and an attempted suicide survivor, spoke on how his life-changing event changed him for the better.
"If it were not for the noncommissioned officers above me, I would not be here," Calderon said. "A suicide prevented is a life extended. Since then, I found that my purpose is to help those who are struggling the same way I was."
Following the speeches, attendees were encouraged to play various sports. Kickball, ultimate frisbee, basketball and a bounce house for the military were available for Soldiers and their Families to enjoy.
"I really enjoyed today," said 1st Lt. Antoinette Wilson, a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear officer from 83rd Chemical Battalion. "(Physical training) this morning boosted everyone's morale, and the speakers from earlier weren't strangers; they were people we interact with every day who felt comfortable enough to tell us their experiences."
Wilson said the experience opened her eyes because appearances alone won't tell what's going on behind closed doors, so it's important to build healthy relationships with everyone you come across.
"Problems are temporary; suicide is permanent," Calderon said. "You wouldn't know how many opportunities you might miss or how many solutions you would have if you follow through with it."
If you or someone you know is in need of help, contact a Military Family Life Counselor at (912) 432-8980. Numerous other resources are available to Soldiers and their Families.