FORT SILL, Okla.--Eighth-grader Nicholas Rauls, 13, grew up like many Army family members.

He was born at Fort Carson, Colo., and lived on installations in Alaska, Germany and at Fort Sill. Nick was a model student at Elgin Middle School where he made straight A's, played drums in the school band and was popular, said his father.

But at home, Nick was withdrawn and chose to spend hours playing video games; sometimes well into the night. While his parents, David and Michelle Rauls believed they were giving their son his privacy and space, other things were going on with Nick.

Part of it was biological -- Nick was going through -- adolescence. Part of it was emotional -- David described his son as having a Type A personality, a perfectionist who was mature for his age. And, part of it was environmental: A recent ice storm had displaced the family from their home. And, Nick was disciplined by losing his X-Box privileges.

On Feb. 7, Nick took his life with a .44-caliber pistol in the family's Elgin home.

Awareness advocates

Since then, the Rauls have been vocal advocates for suicide awareness. On Dec. 6, David Rauls presented suicide prevention training to about 30 Soldiers in Rear Detachment, 3rd Battalion, 6th Air Defense Artillery, at the ADA Headquarters complex.

Rauls, a combat veteran, spoke about his bouts with post traumatic stress disorder, heavy drinking, a failed marriage, his thoughts on taking his life, and Nick's life and death.

"Empower yourself to get the resources that you need; they are there for you," Rauls said to the air defenders, many of whom will soon begin holiday block leave. "Your chain of command cares about you."

A recipe for disaster is combat veterans who are detached from their families, are alone and have nothing to do during the holidays, Rauls said.

"Soldiers who don't spend time with other people are more apt to not only be depressed, but to further ingrain that depression," said Rauls, who works as a video teleconference coordinator at the Network Enterprise Center.

What's important is to live to fight another day, Rauls said.

"Find something that you believe in, find something that heightens your awareness, find something that lets you revere life," he said.

Keep active

He implored Soldiers to be with somebody, to get out and do something and to take advantage of the holiday adopt-a-Soldier programs.

"We, as a community, cannot stand to lose another person to suicide," Rauls said. "The bottom line is that everybody matters."

Rauls also touched upon the commanding general's policy letter which prohibits belittling of Soldiers who are seeking mental health care, and that also encourages Soldiers to seek care.

"If someone is treating you unfairly because you are admitting to yourself that you need to take action, I guarantee you that they (commanders) will eat that joker up quick," Rauls said.

Despite years of suicide prevention training, Rauls said he lost his son because he was naive and missed the warnings signs in his own family. He told the Soldiers to look out for their battle buddies.

"Don't be an idiot like me," said the retired first sergeant.

Suicide is not a solution to one's problems, he said. Someone who commits suicide is only thinking about their individualized pain.

"You cannot imagine the pain that a suicide causes," said Rauls, as he frequently paused for composure. "Everybody in their family, their unit is left to deal with it."

Rauls, who does his suicide prevention awareness as a volunteer, said he will talk to anyone about suicide awareness.