By Lt. Col. Cynthia KingSeptember 9, 2019
FORT BLISS, Texas -For many, it was too painful to talk about. Instead, they quietly wrote the name of someone they lost to suicide on a piece of olive-colored tape and wore it during the march to remember them.
U.S. Soldiers in the 1st Squadron, 150th Cavalry Regiment from the West Virginia National Guard, attached to the 30th Armored Brigade Combat Team, participated in a Suicide Prevention Awareness march while in the vicinity of Fort Bliss, Texas, September 7, 2019.
The unit's Chaplain (Cpt) Justin Elliott said that the event was planned to learn more about preventing suicide and share ways to help one another, as well as find support.
"September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness month and September 10 is National Suicide Prevention Day," said Elliott. "We are taking this opportunity to help our Soldiers, let them know they are not alone and that there are ways to find support."
The more than 500 Soldiers who marched in formation were dressed in duty uniform and donned their Improved Outer Tactical Vests (IOTV). They were told if they wanted to recognize someone they cared about who died from suicide, they could display the name on their vest. Nearly one-third of the Soldiers displayed a name and sadly, some Soldiers wore more than one name.
Elliott placed signs along the route with words of reassurance and strength. One of the signs read, "Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day, saying I will try again tomorrow."
"We believe in the ACT initiative, where we ask if someone is hurting and thinking of suicide; care by listening and letting them know they are not alone; and treat, meaning get the individual to assistance," said 1st Squadron, 150th Cavalry Regiment Commander, U.S. Army Lt. Col. Clifford Brackman. "We know this is making a difference."
When they reached the end of the mile-and-a-half march, the Soldiers formed around the 1st Squadron, 150th Cavalry Regiment Command Sergeant Major, Command Sgt. Maj. James Phillips. He reminded them it was so important they look out for one another, and understand that when someone commits suicide, it deeply affects everyone.
"Sometimes we never know why we didn't see the signs," said Phillips. "You have to get to know your battle-buddies. You have to talk to each other."
Brackman said that he hopes the Suicide Prevention Awareness march reminded his Soldiers that there is help out there. He also wanted the 30th Armored Brigade Combat Team "Old Hickory" tradition of "stay and fight" to resonate for them.
"We want our Soldiers to stay and fight for their families, stay and fight for their fellow Soldiers, and stay and fight for their lives," said Brackman.
Soldiers from the 30th Armored Brigade Combat Team, headquartered in the North Carolina Army National Guard, are preparing to support Operation Spartan Shield. The organization is comprised of units from the North Carolina, South Carolina, Ohio and West Virginia Army National Guard.