JOINT BASE LANGLEY - EUSTIS, Va. – September is historically a very busy month for the Army, and for the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, it’s no different. TRADOC Headquarters concentrated efforts Sept. 10 and 11 on suicide prevention and remembering the events of 9/11 on Patriot Day.
Hosted by Gen. Paul E. Funk II, commanding general of TRADOC, honorary dinners and breakfasts with VIPs and guests took place, along with a morale building golf scramble, at Fort Eustis, Virginia, to foster inclusion and comradery.
In part, the VIP visit was sponsored by Feherty’s Troops First Foundation who provided the speakers and a golf pro, Dan Boever, who performed trick golf shots during the golf scramble portion of the two-day event focused on resiliency and overcoming adversity.
“Who’s gonna talk about the elephant in the room?” asked U.S. Army Master Sgt. (Ret.), and double amputee Chris Corbin to Advanced Individual Training students listening to his talk at the aviation hangar of the 128th Aviation Brigade. “It might not be comfortable, it might not be an enjoyable conversation, but that elephant in the room still needs to be discussed.”
Corbin emphasized that there are two possible conversations that can take place regarding suicide: a conversation that may be difficult to have but will save a life, or a regrettable suicide safety stand down because a Soldier or colleague has taken their own life.
“You know your battle buddies. You know if they’re acting a little different. So, you need to ask them if they’re ok. If you don’t? One day you might find yourself in a position of asking yourself, ‘why didn’t I ask those questions? I might have been able to prevent that suicide if I had just asked those questions.’”
Other special guests included: U.S. Army Master Sgt. (Ret.), and Medal of Honor recipient, Leroy Petry; U.S. Army veteran, performer, and double amputee Justin (JP) Lane; former NFL player Jeff Bostic, who played for the legendary "Hogs" on the offensive line in Washington; former Navy Seal Frank Larkin; U.S. Army Command Sgt. Maj. (Ret.) Thomas Capel; and U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class (Ret.) Chris Schwope, to list just a few.
Lane discussed resiliency practices and techniques he has mastered over the years in spite of being a double amputee.
“At times I felt like giving up, dozens of times, in fact,” he said. “I looked in the mirror as I was recovering from being blown up from an IED and saw a monster looking back at me. With my prosthetic legs I had to learn how to walk all over again. I had to learn how to speak all over again. So you better believe I felt like killing myself plenty of times. But I just kept remembering what the Army instilled in me. To never give up! Never surrender!”
MOH recipient Petry emphasized the need to always do the right thing, no matter the cost.
At a resiliency breakfast the following morning with a different group of AIT students, Jeff Bostic also discussed mentorship and resiliency.
Throughout the two-day event the common message was resiliency. Instilling upon everyone that no matter how dark things may seem, when one is part of the Army team, everyone matters, and it’s up to the Soldier to the left and right in the ranks to take care of one another.
During all of the resiliency training events Soldiers and civilians were encouraged to take the “Warrior Pledge”: “I pledge to make one call a week. I will reach out to my battle buddies to support them moving forward. I will assist them in getting connected to the resources they may need. I pledge to make a call, take a call and be honest.”
“Although the events 19 years ago tested us, what those terrorists underestimated is the power of our nation – the underlying bedrock of strength, tenacity, and grit that unites the American People,” Funk said. “Each day, it is your hard work, dedication, and sacrifice that keeps the light of freedom and opportunity shining brightly throughout the world.”
Fort Eustis also hosted a 5K run, which was led by the Patriot Guard Riders motorcycle club, to honor the fallen.
“To our adversaries, take heed of the following words,” Funk said. “We will not tire, we will not falter, and we will not fail.”