Arsenal Island's stand down has army standing up for life

Posted Online: Oct. 04, 2012, 10:38 pm
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By Leon Lagerstam,
ARSENAL ISLAND -- About 300 soldiers and civilian military employees attended the first day-long safety and suicide stand down day Thursday at the First Army headquarters at Rock Island Arsenal.

It was part of a national effort ordered by Army Vice Chief of Staff, Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, in the wake of reports that 38 soldiers had killed themselves in July.

Those deaths brought total number of suicides this year to 187, including 120 on active duty, according to the Army.

Males are four times more likely to commit suicide than females, and self-inflicted gunshots are responsible for 70 percent of them, said Lt. Gen. Mick Bednarek, First U.S. Army Commanding General. Personal-owned weapons are used 49 percent of the time, he added. And a majority of soldiers committing suicide are not, nor have been deployed overseas, he said.

Numbers this year are on a ''fatal glide path, that's why we are here,'' Lt. Gen. Mick Bednarek said.

"The key thing is to acknowledge there is a problem we need to address and to elevate the awareness of the resources and agencies available.''

Lt. Gen. Bednarek referred to a ''Shoulder to Shoulder, We Stand Up For Life'' theme and to ''warrior ethos'' terms during his introductory remarks, highlighting the phrase ''I will never leave a fallen comrade,'' saying it was the centerpiece of the day's plans.

''The fact that we don't leave our wounded behind is carved in stone, and is written in the blood of heroes,'' guest speaker John Musgrave said.

Mr. Musgrave, a Vietnam veteran, said two comrades were shot and killed attempting to rescue him after he was wounded.

Mr. Musgrave was 17 when he went into the U.S. Marine Corps, and the average age of men in his combat unit was 18. Yet, he said he learned more about being an American, and what the true meaning of love is, from that group of teenagers than he learned from anyone else.

''We were willing to die for each other,'' Mr. Musgrave said. ''You can't love any one more than that.''

Later, after the war, however, and in pain, he started feeling that the gift of his life his friends had fought and died for, wasn't a gift at all. It was a burden, he said. ''It's called 'survivor's guilt,' and has probably killed more soldiers than our enemies have.

''Suicide is an act of desperation,'' Mr. Musgrave said. ''And you can make yourself think you're doing the bravest and selfless acts of all. I thought suicide was doing my family a favor. I had convinced myself I was a burden on them.''

It's an example of the mindset people have at such times, Mr. Musgrave said. ''And you have to see the world from their mindset if you're going to help them.

''If I have lifted a veil of how people are thinking at those times, then I have been successful here today,'' he said.

''It's my belief that no one goes through combat unscarred,'' he said. The emotionally wounded must be treated ''as serious as doctors care for the physically wounded.''



Local events heading

  Today is Thursday, April 17, the 107th day of 2014. There are 258 days left in the year.

1864 -- 150 years ago: Journeymen shoemakers of Rock Island struck for higher wages yesterday morning, asking 25 percent increases. Employers have acceded to their demand.
1889 -- 125 years ago: Lighting struck wires of the Merchants Electric Light Co. during a furious storm, and many Rock Island business houses were compelled to resort to gas as a means of illumination.
1914 -- 100 years ago: Members of the First Church of Christ, Scientist, decided to erect a new edifice at a cost of about $60,000.
1939 -- 75 years ago: Willard Anderson, junior forward for the Augustana College basketball team, which won 17 out of 22 contests, was elected captain of the quintet.
1964 -- 50 years ago: John Hoffman, Moline, president of the Sac-Fox Council of Boy Scouts, will be honored for his 50 years in scouting by members of the council at a dinner Thursday evening.
1989 -- 25 years ago: The Quad-Cities has what is believed to be the area's first elite-class gymnast. It's the stuff upon which Olympic competitors are made. Tiffany Chapman, of Rock Island, not only has earned the highest possible gymnast ranking, she won the honor at age 11.

(More History)