FORT GREGG-ADAMS, Va. – Reaching out and connecting with others in the community can help provide support and prevent feelings that could lead to suicide, the speaker for the installation's Suicide Prevention Awareness Month event said.
Retired U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 3 Jon Ganues, a veteran of 21 years of service, spoke to soldiers at Beaty Theater as the guest speaker for Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month on Sept. 20. Ganues is an advocate for suicide awareness and honors the memory of his son, Airmen 1st Class Jon Wesley Ganues Jr. United States Air Force who died by suicide.
“We are here to save lives,” Ganues said, “suicide prevention and resources can save lives.”
Among the crowd at Beaty Theater was installation leadership, led by U.S. Fort Gregg-Adams Garrison Commander Col. James D. Hoyman and Garrison Command Sgt. Maj. Ben Brinkmeyer. Also attending were several members of the Fort Gregg-Adams community as well as AIT students.
“As a community, when we have a death from suicide, we need to make sure that we are reaching out and connecting to others,” Ganues said. “We need to make sure that we check on one another, that we connect with others to be there for them, their families and friends, and provide the support that they may need when we go through a tragedy like suicide.”
On June 2, 2009, Ganues was notified that his son Wesley had committed suicide.
“His death impacted my family tremendously, as well as his other airmen and our extended family,” Ganues said. “Suicide deaths have that effect, not only do they affect your immediate family and friends, but they can affect your coworkers and your community in different ways. A suicide in the family can potentially put others in the family at risk of suicide as well as coworkers and friends.”
“Those lost should be defined by the life they lived, not one moment of weakness,” he said. “The manner and time of a person’s suicide death doesn’t define who they were as a person.”
Also, during the event, organizations such as Army Community Service, The Red Cross and several other organizations, had tables setup with information and prevention resources readily available to those in attendance. These resources act as a reminder to reach out and connect and that there is always someone ready to be there for those in need.
“We are designed to connect with one another,” Hoyman said. “When we engage with others we connect, and our connections have an impact on one another.”
Ganues and his wife Maria are active members of the Survivor Outreach Services on Fort Gregg-Adams. Together they have helped generate an impact and change lives.
“As a community, when we have a death from suicide, we need to make sure that we are reaching out and connecting to others,” said Ganues. “We need to make sure that we check on one another, that we connect with others to be there for them and provide the support that they may need when we go through a tragedy like suicide.”
Suicide rates have increased in the U.S. military over the past year. In the first quarter of 2023 the number of suicides across the active-duty military has increased from 75 in the first quarter of 2022 to now 94 suicides. This marks the largest number of deaths by suicide in a single quarter since the second quarter of 2021, when 97 active-duty service members died by suicide.
If you or someone you know is in need of help, contact the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988 and press 1 for the Military Crisis Line. More resources are available online here: https://www.armyresilience.army.mil/suicide-prevention/