JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. – Former NBA All-Star and past honorary commander for the 62nd Airlift Wing, James Donaldson, visited Joint Base Lewis-McChord Sept. 24 as the guest speaker for the Directorate of Personnel and Family Readiness’ Risk Reduction event.
The event, focusing on suicide prevention and awareness, took place at Carey Theater with over 100 people attending in person and others viewing online. According to the Department of Defense, more than 570 service members took their lives in 2020.
Donaldson is no stranger to the pains of suicidal thoughts and stigmas surrounding mental health. Having gone through his own battle with both, he offered encouraging words to the audience.
“The friendships you are making here, are the friendships you’re going to need throughout your life,” he said. “You have to find your circle.”
After his speech, Donaldson opened the floor for questions. One attendee asked Donaldson about the moment he decided to take back his life.
“A star athlete at my alma mater (Washington State University) took his own life,” Donaldson said. “He was so young; for the next few weeks, everyone went around telling his story.”
Donaldson told the crowd that loss really touched home for him. It was then he knew he had to fight.
“I didn’t want anyone else telling my story,” he said. “I wanted to beat this thing, so I could tell my own story and help someone.”
JBLM Risk Reduction is committed to the units and their missions, sustaining mission readiness and serving on the commander’s battle staff.
During his opening remarks, Col. Phil Lamb, commander of JBLM, expressed his own concerns about the mental well-being of JBLM service members in dealing with many challenges at home and at work, primarily centered around COVID-19 impacts.
“There are three aspects of readiness,” Lamb said. “Not just your physical readiness, but your spiritual and mental readiness as well.”
Lamb said, within the last year, COVID-19 has made it difficult to maintain the morale of JBLM service members. He also mentioned trying to do more to ensure positive outlets for dealing with stressors and concerns.
“I will continue to push hard to open up more services,” he said, “but I ask for your patience.”
To view the recording of the Sept. 24 event with Donaldson, click here.
For more resources and information on suicide prevention, click here.
For more JBLM News, click here.