Fort Polk Guardian 12-14-2018

Viewpoint 2/ The Guardian , a civilian enter- prise newspaper, is an authorized publication for members of the U.S. Army. Contents of the Guardian are not necessarily official views of, or en- dorsed by, the U.S. Government, De- partment of Defense, Department of the Army or Fort Polk. The Guardian is published weekly by the Public Affairs Office, Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk. Printed circulation is 13,000. Everything advertised in this publication shall be made available for purchase, use or patronage with- out regard to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, marital status, physical handicap, political affiliation or any other nonmerit factor of the purchaser, user or patron. A confirmed violation of this policy of equal opportunity by an ad- vertiser will result in the refusal to print advertising from that source. All editorial content of the Guardian is prepared, edited, pro- vided and approved by the Public Af- fairs Office, Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk. The Guardian is printed by the Natchitoches Times , a private firm in no way connected with the Depart- ment of the Army, under exclusive written contract with Fort Polk. The civilian printer is responsible for com- mercial advertising. The appearance of advertising in this publication, including inserts and supplements, does not constitute en- dorsement by the Department of the Army or the Natchitoches Times of the products or services advertised. Guardian Editorial Staff Brig. Gen. Patrick D. Frank Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk commanding general Col. Jarrett Thomas II Garrison commander Kim Reischling Information strategies officer Chuck Cannon Editor Jean Dubiel Angie Thorne Staff writers Editorial Offices Building 4919, Magnolia Street Fort Polk, LA 71459-5060 Voice (337) 531-4033 Fax (337) 531-1401 Email: Trading post ads: Fort Polk Homepage Advertising For advertising contact (337) 404-7242 Email: sales@ In our view Guardian staff asked Fort Polk residents, "What is your favorite Christmas song?" Here are their responses: Spc. Gabriel Artega: "’This is Halloween’ — it’s a great Christmas song." Guardian Dec. 14, 2018 Melissa Rock: "Baby It’s Cold Outside." FORT POLK, La. — Let me pre- cede this piece by saying that I am not a behavioral health specialist, a medical professional nor do I claim to be. But with more than 30 years in the Army from private to senior NCO, to lieutenant colonel, I think this gives me a unique perspective on Soldiers and their behavior. A few weeks ago I found out that a friend of mine, a senior leader in our Army, had taken his own life. Sadly, this was not anything new; it seems that every few months I learn similar news from my circle of friends. Less than one percent of a nation of roughly 350 million people has served in uniform. That is an amazing statistic. To me, that makes that less than one percent an elite and special class of American citizens. Those veterans are the less than one percent that are willing to put their lives on the line and the prosperity of their families and endure the less than predictable life style of the military for the other 99 percent of the nation. They shoul- der the load — often silently and without complaint — of the nation’s security for others and do so willing- ly and without an expectation of adulation or entitlement from those they serve. The veteran is a special breed of citizen that expects nothing in return but the acknowledgment and respect from a citizenry that, at times, seems ignorant of their sacri- fice and apathetic to their contribu- tions. According to the last Veterans Ad- ministration study, there are about 22 veteran suicides a day, including active-duty Soldiers. This averages out to about one every 65 minutes. While that statistic is staggering enough, it is hard to visualize. So, let’s put in in perspective to Fort Polk: That means in about a year every ac- tive-duty Soldier on Fort Polk would be dead. That is quite shocking; in about a year, with no ac- tion by the enemy, criminal acts, traf- fic accidents, disease or natural caus- es, the Army loses an entire brigade combat team, the cream of the corps with Operations Group, a top notch MP battalion, an engineer battalion with specialized skills that we des- perately need and a host of special medical professionals from BJACH along with a number of other spe- cialized MOSs that take years to train. Think about that for a minute. In less than a year, every active-duty Soldier on Fort Polk is dead. What is the point of these statis- tics? To make you think about the enormity of the problem. Invisible wounds are present in our ranks and they are as important to address as visible wounds. After this most recent tragedy, I informed my employees. Many had known this Soldier and considered him a solid leader and family man with a bright future, set to retire and enjoy the fruits of his labor. While none of us are behavioral health spe- cialists, we are retired senior leaders in the Army, know Soldiers and know the struggles veterans face. This “sit-down” wasn’t scripted or planned, but it was probably the best suicide prevention discussion I ever had. There was no script, no slides and no agenda — it was off the cuff, honest talk from the heart and from men who were sick with sorrow and desperation to find a way to suspend this wave of suicides of America’s finest. We had known warriors that had taken their own life and were affected by it. Traumatized by the haunting feeling of “what did I miss, what could I have done?” There was a common theme that emerged: Continued engagement by leadership, by leaders closest to the problem that knew them and what they had been through. This contin- ued engagement did not just apply to active-duty leaders; it is a persist- ent obligation — for life — with those we have served with in trying times. When you change command, have a change of responsibility, ETS, retire or hang up the uniform, it doesn’t mean that you stop leading. Once you have led men, they will al- ways see you that way; you’re stuck with it. As their commander or leader, it is an honor and a compliment. I have driven to Texas in the middle of the night on a work week, sent money, bought plane tickets, hosted Soldiers in my home for days, called friends to do a QRF and yes, even called the police to make sure one of my men was safe, long after my time as their Don’t forget Soldiers suffering invisible wounds Commentary Leslie Please see Suicide, page 4 Sgt. La’Juan Gor- don: "All I Want For Christmas is You by Mariah Carey." Sgt. Paul Leva: "Baby It’s Cold Out- side." By Retired Lt. Col. MARK LESLIE DPTMS chief, Plans and Operations For advertising contact Theresa Larue ( ) E ail: sales