FORT CAVAZOS, Texas — Fort Cavazos’ commitment to suicide prevention was highlighted during the Suicide Prevention Proclamation signing Friday at III Armored Corps Headquarters here.
The proclamation signifies III Armored Corps’ commitment to building resiliency and supporting the health, safety and well-being of its Soldiers, their families, Army civilians and the community.
The theme for 2023 is “You are a light in somebody’s life,” which underscores the impact each individual has on preventing suicide.
Military leaders and attendees, wearing varying shades of purple and teal to commemorate Suicide Prevention month, listened as Lt. Gen. Sean C. Bernabe, III Armored Corps and Fort Cavazos commanding general, encouraged unit leaders to be engaged and empathetic.
“Suicide prevention starts with the leaders who are proficient, leaders who are truly engaged with their Soldiers, their Soldiers’ families and their units, and leaders who are empathetic. That’s where it starts,” he began. “Suicide prevention is about caring for our Soldiers, all of our civilians and their families. It is absolutely about care for Soldiers and their families in all aspects of the word.
“Not just being a leader who is proficient, engaged, empathetic, but developing our young Soldiers who find themselves in fierce positions as team leaders, young corporals and sergeants, making sure they understand what it means to be engaged and empathetic,” Bernabe continued.
Bernabe went on to convey that suicide prevention is about building cohesive teams and recognizing when a team member needs help.
As he closed, Bernabe reiterated his assertion that suicide prevention starts at the top.
“Let me say again, it all starts with an engaged and empathetic leadership,” he said. “I see a lot of leaders here. I ask you to join me in your commitment to prevent suicide. One is too many at Fort Cavazos. One is too many in the III Armored Corps. Let’s prevent suicide. You with me?”
Soldiers and guests responded with a resounding “hooah” and a thunderous round of applause before welcoming guest speaker retired Lt. Col. Blaine Radenz.
The audience listened intently as Radenz recounted how depression and behavioral issues contributed to his youngest son taking his own life.
Radenz paused frequently as he remembered the events that let up to the day his son died and the struggles he and his family faced in the wake of the tragedy.
He admitted that he never talked to his child about suicide or asked him if he was thinking of killing himself and implored others to take an opposite approach.
“Don’t be like me. I didn’t want to live with it,” Radenz urged. “Inform folks. Like the general said, it starts with proactive and engaged leadership.”
Before taking his seat, Radenz issued a heartfelt plea to take action.
“You are a light in someone’s life, whether you know it or not,” he encouraged. “Anyone can be that light that sustains the lines when someone is in that dark overwhelming place. Even a stranger can offer that lifeline when someone is in that place. Please, take the effort. Take the chance. Reach out when you think someone needs it.”
Summer Dixon, Fort Cavazos Suicide Prevention coordinator, echoed the same sentiments of implementing a collaborative effort to help save lives.
She implored attendees to “get to know one another and seek understanding and common ground as we work to meet the mission.”
Dixon thanked the audience for their attendance and dedication to the mission of suicide prevention.
“Your presence here implies a free commitment to be a part, to being that agent of change in assisting in efforts to attain a suicide free community,” she said. “Remember, the actions we take today can help reduce suicides here tomorrow.”
Col. Lakicia Stokes, U.S Army Garrison-Fort Cavazos commander, Command Sgt. Maj. Calvin Hall, U.S. Army Garrison-Fort Cavazos command sergeant major, Dixon and Rabenz joined Bernabe as he signed the proclamation, which read in part, “Connectedness highlights the important role of building relationships within family, friends, community and resources to prevent suicide. Making a connection with a person can protect a life from suicide. The Army continues to experience an accelerated number of suicides, suicide attempts and suicidal ideations. Our entire III Armored Corps and Fort Cavazos community must be fully committed to reversing this disturbing suicidal trend.”