By Spc. Alisha Hauk, 14th Public Affairs DetachmentDecember 20, 2011
FORT HOOD, Texas (Dec. 20, 2011) -- Alcohol and drug safety briefings, as well as suicide prevention and awareness briefings are an integral part of Army training. However, holding a Soldier's attention through training on these subjects can be challenging, especially when Soldiers are required to attend.
Therefore, the Fort Hood Army Substance Abuse Program, known as ASAP, teamed up with Bernie McGrenahan in an effort to keep Soldiers engaged in this important training. McGrenahan, a comedian for the past 23 years, performed his show, "Happy Hour -- Comedy With a Message," at Howze Auditorium, Dec. 2.
The show Happy Hour, which started in 1997, is McGrenahan's attempt to reach out to troubled Soldiers who have turned to drugs or alcohol to deal with stressors in their lives.
"Once 9/11 hit and this war was initiated, obviously there were some issues in our military, dealing with the stress of war and some turn to alcohol or drugs to deal with that stress," McGrenahan said. "I thought, let me not just go out and be a comedian, let me go out and say, 'Hey, I have a story that may or may not help you.' I want to try to reach out to the hearts of Soldiers and have them think about their actions, and if they need to, make a change."
McGrenahan received three citations for driving under the influence while he was in his 20s. The third one came after one of his two younger brothers took his own life following a discussion McGrenahan and his brother had about the dangers of drinking alcohol in excess. McGrenahan said that the six months he spent in Los Angeles County Jail following his third DUI was very sobering for him. He has been sober from alcohol and other substances for 23 years.
This is the story McGrenahan shares with Soldiers who attend his show. He explained that this, coupled with the news stories he found himself reading about Soldier suicides after 9/11, was the reason Happy Hour was created.
"We want to try to reduce the number of not just DUIs, but also suicides," McGrenahan said. "When I started reading the Army statistics on these subjects, it was really painful for me to realize so many of our Soldiers were actually committing suicide."
McGrenahan said his goal was to try and shrink the amount of Soldiers turning to drugs and alcohol, as well as suicide.
"I want to try and stop some of that," he said. "I want to reduce some of those numbers and keep those men and women with their families, with their jobs, in uniform and serving their nation."
McGrenahan also said that Soldiers seem very receptive to this type of prevention and awareness training.
"In addition to what ASAP is already doing, there is this," he said. "It's a little different. I think the magnitude of a personal story is very powerful."
The magic moments, McGrenahan said, are when he receives letters from service members after his shows, detailing how much hearing his personal story helped them in assessing their own situation and making positive changes.
"They bring tears to my eyes, some of these letters," he said.
McGrenahan said that he's touched to know that what he does actually helps and he has no plans of cancelling his show any time soon because of how much he cares about America's troops.
"I just love our men and women in uniform," he said. "I might not have the recognition or fame as some celebrities that go out, but I care about these troops so much."