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 Wednesday, April 23, the 113th day of 2014. There are 252 days left in the year.

1864 — 150 years ago: Some persons are negotiating for 80 feet of ground on Illinois Street with a view of erecting four stores thereon. It would serve a better purpose if the money was invested in neat tenement houses.
1889 — 125 years ago: The Central station, car house and stables of the Moline-Rock Island Horse Railway line of the Holmes syndicate, together with 15 cars and 42 head of horses, were destroyed by fire. The loss was at $15,000.
1914 — 100 years ago: Vera Cruz, Mexico, after a day and night of resistance to American forces, gradually ceased opposition. The American forces took complete control of the city.
1939 — 75 years ago: Dr. R. Bruce Collins was reelected for a second term as president of the Lower Rock Island County Tuberculosis Association.
1964 — 50 years ago: Work is scheduled to begin this summer on construction of a new men's residence complex and an addition to the dining facilities at Westerlin Hall at Augustana College.
1989 — 25 years ago: Special Olympics competitors were triple winners at Rock Island High School Saturday. The participants vanquished the rain that fell during the competition, and some won their events; but most important, they triumphed over their own disabilities.

(More History)