On the surface, the boots Sandra Butler helped paint are cheerful and eye-catching. But like others on display in Darling Hall on Sept. 10, the stories stemming from the paint are not so bright.
Butler, sexual assault victim advocate 35th Signal Brigade, joined several members of the Fort Gordon community in painting a pair of combat boots to help bring awareness to Suicide Prevention Month.
"The idea is to get people talking," explained Robinstine Stokes, Army Substance and Abuse Program specialist.
Butler can't help but wonder if the person she painted her boot for would still be here today if only he had talked to someone.
"We just never saw it coming," Butler said of her fellow Navy comrade. "You never know what a person who is contemplating suicide … we don't know what they're going through. That's why we need to support people. Hear people. Listen to them."
As a victim advocate, Butler said she is an advocate for life.
"There is always another way to look at it," she said. "I advocate for not making a permanent decision based on a temporary situation, and that's what suicide is -- a permanent decision."
Half a dozen pairs of painted boots were turned in and will be on display at high-traffic areas across the installation such as the Exchange, Commissary, and dining facilities. Stokes will rotate locations each week to maximize visibility and spark conversations.
"Hopefully we'll get a display somewhere year-round as a reminder that suicide prevention is 365 days; it's not just September," Stokes said.
The community is also encouraged to paint a printed picture of boots or a ribbon with a message of hope, then hang the picture in a prominent place as an indication that a person can feel safe coming to you if they need to talk.
Anyone who did not have a chance to paint and turn in a pair of boots may still do so. Stokes said to bring the boots to the Suicide Prevention Month command program on Sept. 17, 2:30 p.m., at Alexander Hall. Everyone is encouraged to attend the program.
"There are still opportunities to show support and increase awareness," she said.