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Fort Stewart Soldiers Stand Together to Prevent Suicide

By Army Pfc. Calab Franklin, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division

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FORT STEWART, Ga., Dec. 6, 2017 — Soldiers and civilians assigned here and to Hunter Army Airfield gathered here Dec. 1 to promote awareness and offer resources to help prevent suicide.

A veteran speaks to soldiers
Jason Roncoroni, a retired Army lieutenant colonel and mental health advocate, speaks to a group of soldiers during a 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, suicide prevention event, Dec. 1, 2017, at Fort Stewart, Ga., Dec. 1, 2017. Behavioral health specialists used the backdrop of a car show to engage participants in conversation surrounding suicide. The prevention event included a guest speaker, personal testimonials, musical entertainment, Fort Stewart food trucks, and more. Army photo by Pfc. Calab Franklin
A veteran speaks to soldiers Suicide Prevention Event
Jason Roncoroni, a retired Army lieutenant colonel and mental health advocate, speaks to a group of soldiers during a 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, suicide prevention event, Dec. 1, 2017, at Fort Stewart, Ga., Dec. 1, 2017. Behavioral health specialists used the backdrop of a car show to engage participants in conversation surrounding suicide. The prevention event included a guest speaker, personal testimonials, musical entertainment, Fort Stewart food trucks, and more. Army photo by Pfc. Calab Franklin

Medical professionals from the 3rd Infantry Division’s 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team and embedded behavioral health specialists from Fort Stewart used the backdrop of a car show to engage participants in conversation surrounding suicide. The event included a guest speaker, personal testimonials, musical entertainment, food trucks and more.

The guest speaker was Jason Roncoroni, a retired Army lieutenant colonel and a mental health advocate. Roncoroni also once served as the garrison commander of Hunter Army Airfield. During his 2015 retirement speech he moved the audience by highlighting his struggle in coping with stress. Roncoroni now uses his story to help and inspire those who deal with similar challenges.

Sharing Experiences

“I use my platform to be very honest about my experience, and what I went through with my combat stress, moral injury, and combat trauma,” he said. “Total health is important, and I don’t think you can have that without the mental, spiritual, or emotional components. As the culture is changing, and as we start to embrace this overall approach on health more openly, the condition and wellness of our soldiers and their families is going to improve.”

Army Maj. (Dr.) Selina Jeanise, the 2nd ABCT surgeon, talked about how the behavioral health team wanted to do something different for the soldiers, giving them an opportunity to connect socially in a healthy, yet fun, way.

“The social setting gives the soldier's time to build conversation in a very natural and relaxed environment, while still educating and informing about suicide prevention. This gives us a chance to show the soldiers what resources are available to them both in and outside of the military.” said Army Capt. Brooke Wirtz, 2nd ABCT behavioral health officer.

Showing Support

Many soldiers came to show support for their brothers- and sisters-in-arms who may have a hard time taking the first step towards help.

Army Spc. Ethan Yates, a medic with Charlie Company, 703rd Brigade Support Battalion, performed a rap song about his personal experiences and the importance of reaching out for help. He talks about how a suicide hotline responder saved his life just by talking to him. To show others a way to take the first step towards help, Yates repeats the suicide hotline number (1-800-273-8255) several times in his rap.

“I was so scared of how people I know would think of me if I told them how I felt. Talking to someone who was a complete stranger was easier. As soon I opened up to her I was completely relieved” Yates said.