Ft. Jackson private is hero. But the reason for his heroism was not due to any battle situation nor some community related act. Pvt. Brian Serna, Company F, 1st Battalion, 34th Infantry Regiment, awoke in the middle of the night and headed into the restroom. There he found a fellow trainee standing oddly against the wall. The unidentified soldier announced that he was glad Serna had come in, because he was about to commit suicide.
Serna acted immediately, and in compliance with the suicide prevention training he had received at the start of his Basic Training at Ft. Jackson. He took away the other man’s shoe laces and belt, which had been fashioned into a rope. The heroic young man then subdued the other and called for help, staying with him until Drill Sergeants and Emergency Responders arrived.
Pvt. Serna was recognized for his act of bravery with the Army Achievement medal. One of his drill sergeants, Sgt. 1st Class Richard Love, put him in for the medal not just as recognition for his actions, but to raise more awareness of the problem and the responsibility of each soldier for his comrades. “If we can spread that message to 200 and some Soldiers that this is important, and this is worthy of being recognized, then … hopefully they spread it to at least one person and before you know it, it’s spread,” Love said.
A 350-page report recently released by the Army shows suicides on the rise overall, despite the rates for active duty soldiers declining in 2010. “It’s not a deployment problem, because over 50 percent of the people that committed suicide in the Army National Guard in 2010 had never deployed,” Maj. Gen. Raymond Carpenter, the acting director of the Army National Guard, said Wednesday at a news conference where the new figures were announced.
The reasons for the suicide rates remain a mystery, as some preconceptions were mostly disproved during the study. Carpenter explained that analysis from the 2010 study showed that deployment was NOT the overriding factor, as “50% of the people in the reserves who committed suicide had never been deployed.” And only 15% were unemployed at the time of their deaths, which seemed to rule out employment as an major issue. Over 50% of the suicides were having problems with their significant others, but the study did not want to tie this or other data to point out a single cause.
One thing was clear, according to Army Vice Chief of Staff General Peter Chiarelli, the Army was better equipped to help active duty soldiers than their off-duty counterparts, who had been “removed from the support network provided by the military installations.”
The only obvious conclusion Carpenter could state from the study, is that it is a “young white male problem.” Chiarelli added that despite the report’s findings that deployment was not a major causing factor in the suicides, he still advocated for increasing the amount of time between deployments.
As for Pvt. Serna in Ft. Jackson, he wishes that the soldier he had stopped (who is no longer in the Army) would have reached out to his comrades in the unit. “I felt that if he would have talked to some of us,” Serna sad. “He would have fit in perfectly.”
The Army not only teaches suicide intervention when they arrive at basic, they are given an ACE card, which stands for “ask, care and escort.” Serna proves that the training works and highlights the truth in Chiarelli’s assertions of the type of support a soldier receives from their active duty status.
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