Voice of Strength: Better person, better Soldier

(somber music) – So my story begins on February 14, 2016. One of my best friends died by suicide. He was 18. I was 19 at the time. I went about two or three weeks just kind of not talking to anybody, angry, filled with all
these different emotions. Sadness, distancing myself, and basically blaming myself
for what had happened. What I told myself was to suck it up and keep moving, you know. Don’t act like a baby. Grow up a little bit. I drank. Another coping mechanism was fighting. I was fighting quite a bit. That was the first time I was hospitalized for anxiety and depression
and thoughts of suicide. I didn’t really believe in getting help. I kind of thought it kind of showed that I wasn’t as strong as I should be, especially being in the military. So I kind of weaseled my way through, said I was fine, got done with what I needed
to do and was let go. And then another incident occurred where a NCO from my previous unit had actually died from suicide. And that was kind of like the unveiling of everything that occurred, and I ended up getting
hospitalized for the second time. This time however was
a little bit different. I didn’t want to hurt anymore. I didn’t want to feel that
pain anymore, that sadness. I was kind of sick of it. I was sick of it taking control of my life and I wanted to change
my life for the better. So I listened to what I had to do. Went through the process of getting help, taking the medication, listening to what others had to say, and kind of building myself
to be the person I am today. Today not only am I a better person but I’m a better soldier. I like to, I guess, be
a little more outspoken, be my own person. I feel a little bit more confident. Used to be scared of everything, scared of little things. My anxiety was what stopped me from doing the things that I love to do. I was really nervous about the second time being hospitalized for the fact that the
military now kind of knew what it was going on in my life, and I was scared that I was
going to lose my career, lose everything that I’ve worked hard for, what I’ve built up to. And instead it was the exact opposite. There was more of a
supportive role they took. One of my senior NCOs
called me every single day asking how I was, you know, how am I doing and what
can he do to help me. Another junior NCO was right there, right along the way. You know, when I was at my low point, I didn’t think anybody cared. You know, I was all alone. No brothers, no sisters,
dad always working, mom not in the picture. I had to figure this out on my own. I’ve never been more wrong in my life. (laughs) Don’t treat the soldier like a liability just because they had a low point. To be honest, they’re
probably going to be some of your strongest leaders. Now they have an experience
that they can share with either the junior enlisted, their peers or even leaders themselves. So we wear this uniform to serve, and basically when
you’re in a time of need and a time of sadness or grief, you can’t perform to the
extent that you want to. It’s okay to ask for help. It’s okay to feel down. It’s okay to hurt. It’s not okay to quit. (powerful music)

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