FORT STEWART, Ga. — Sgt. Morgan Edginton, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division, was recognized Sept. 1 on Fort Stewart for her actions which saved the lives of two Soldiers contemplating suicide.
“You are absolutely an inspiration to the battalion and to the Army,” said Lt. Col. Christian Durham, 2-7 Inf. Regt. commander. “She did the hard thing, which is what leaders have to do. You step in and you ask the question.”
Maj. Gen. Tony Aguto, 3rd Inf. Div. commanding general, said that while he carries with him the Soldiers that the Marne Division has lost to suicide, he also carries stories like Edginton’s.
“I carry with me the success stories; things that I know indicate great leaders like Sgt. Edginton,” Aguto said. “She saved two. That is pretty phenomenal.”
Aguto awarded Edginton his challenge coin and addressed her personally.
“Thank you for saving our Soldiers’ lives. Thank you for taking such good care of our Soldiers,” he said.
Edginton has been a medic for five years and said she has learned through her profession to look beyond the surface wounds to find the root of a person’s problems.
“We call it getting tunnel vision,” Edginton said. “You see the big bullet-hole wound, but you don’t see the sleeper that is going to end up killing somebody. You know, the small exit wound out the back.”
September is Suicide Prevention Month, and this year’s DoD Suicide Prevention Month theme is Connectedness. The slogan is “Connect to Protect,” which emphasizes the important role Soldiers all play in taking care of one another.
“All of us are responsible for the care and safekeeping of our teammates and their Families and for being there for one another, and for encouraging those in need to get help,” said Gen. James McConville, chief of staff of the Army.
Edginton sees Soldiers every day for medical problems or upsets in their ability to function, but she also takes it further.
“I really take that to heart,” she said. “When I’m doing an assessment, I’m looking for everything.”
‘His heart rate was racing’
Edginton recalled a Soldier who walked into sick call one morning. She noticed something wasn’t right.
The Soldier revealed to Edginton that he had been sick all night. Edginton went beyond the normal evaluation and noticed the Soldier looked like he had been crying. She asked him what was going on, but the Soldier did not offer any useful information.
Edginton went beyond her knowledge as a medic and recalled information about the Soldier’s private life. She asked the Soldier about his relationship, to which the Soldier revealed things were not going well.
“I told him, ‘hey, if you ever need to talk, you know where I am at,’” Edginton said.
An hour later, the Soldier returned. She asked him what was going on and how was he feeling? She said he finally started to open up to her.
“I started to take his vitals again, and his heart rate was racing,” Edginton said.
She asked if he took anything, to which the Soldier revealed he had taken half of a bottle of a prescription pain medication. Edginton immediately rushed the Soldier to the emergency room.
She advises her fellow leaders to remain approachable.
“I have those hard conversations with my Soldiers all the time,” Edginton said. “The moment your Soldiers stop coming to you with problems is the moment you failed them. You need to be that safe spot to where you can get them the help that they need and follow through.”
‘Always hitting the mark’
Edginton recalled a Soldier of her own gradually losing his professionalism and showing late for work. “I’m pretty hard on my Soldiers; but at the same time that I expect a lot out of them, they expect a lot out of me,” Edginton said. “He is always typically on time; always hitting the mark.”
His sudden reclusiveness and disheartened demeanor were also out of his character.
“Little things, I was noticing,” she said.
Edginton performed a health-and-welfare check on the Soldier in the middle of the week. This is when a leader makes an unannounced visit to their Soldiers’ quarters. She admitted that she noticed a weird vibe in his room and that all of the Soldier’s belongings were packed.
She also noticed a drawer open with a note sticking half way out of it, she said. She saw it was a suicide note, and decided to ask the Soldier point blank, “Hey, are you thinking about committing suicide? Do you have a plan?”
The Soldier admitted he did. As before, Edginton took the Soldier to the emergency room and reported the situation to the chain of command.
“Even though they’re not all my direct Soldiers, being the senior line medic, everybody is my responsibility,” Edginton said.
Installation Management Command advises Service members to continue to strengthen and foster a culture that not only supports help-seeking behavior, but encourages it. The Army continues to improve programs and policies to assist commanders in strengthening Soldiers and enhancing personal resilience. Suicide prevention is a top priority for the Army and it places emphasis on suicide prevention every day of the year.
Critical to success of this effort is leader, Soldier and Family member involvement in understanding the signs and symptoms of at-risk behavior and encouraging Service members to seek support.
Edginton said once she realized what was going on with each Soldier, she alerted their battle buddies to keep an eye on them. She kept calm, made a plan in her head and remained situationally aware.
“You might think they’re acting up, but really there is probably something going on,” Edginton said. “Check up, check down; they are your squad.”
Edginton advises those who are contemplating suicide to reach out to those avenues which help them cope with stress, and if that doesn’t make someone feel better, reach out to a friend or leader or to behavioral health.
“If there is a death or injury that we can prevent, we have to. That is one less person who needs to feel like they need to leave this world when they need to be here… for their Families, for everybody,” Edginton said. “I’ve lost a lot of friends. I’ve lost a lot of battle buddies. I’ve lost patients in training accidents. That is something I carry around with me every day.”