FORT LEE, Va. –
Suicide can be an uncomfortable topic, especially for Soldiers, but for the 2nd Transportation Brigade, 94th Training Division-Force Sustainment, suicide prevention and awareness was fortified with physical prowess during an inaugural 2019 Suicide Awareness 5K here Sept. 14, 2019.
"I believe suicide is an issue that has a tremendous impact on our organization, any organization in the Army as well as for the families involved," said Col. Keith Barta, commander of the 2nd Transportation Brigade, 94th TD. "I believe this issue demands extra attention, so I came up with this event to bring added awareness, get folks talking about the issue, and make those aware that if they're suffering … they'll know they're not the only ones."
Hosted by the 94th TD's 2nd Transportation Brigade Headquarters and Headquarters Company, the event was designed to raise suicide awareness amongst our nation's service members and to encourage Soldiers who are contemplating suicide to seek support from fellow service members, friends, and loved ones. Those who are considering suicide are also encouraged to use various military resources in a time of need or when in the midst of trials and tribulations.
"I got this idea about a year ago, and we have a tremendous event scheduled, including having Cliff Bauman to speak," said Barta. "He's an actual suicide attempt survivor, so he'll bring a unique perspective, and we're fortunate to have him here."
Chief Warrant Officer Four Clifford Bauman, an Active Guard Reserve Soldier assigned to the National Guard Bureau in Washington, D.C., played an integral role during the event by sharing his suicide survival story before the start of the race.
"September 11, 2001, changed my life. I didn't know it then, but it set me on a path of self-destruction and depression," said Bauman. "In time, I lost hope; post-traumatic stress set in, and it silenced me."
"How could this be, I wondered. I am a Soldier, an officer, so I can't feel this way. I am strong. I can overcome anything. Any obstacle. Any enemy in front of me. Any illness," he added. "Sadly, I was wrong. PTSD was stronger than me, and it beat me."
As Bauman told his survival story, a crowd of 200 race participants, Families, friends, and staff listened to what the path toward suicide was like for the Army officer.
"It was December 2002, and I was on my couch in the process of dying by my hand," said Bauman. "I thought I was done fighting."
"Later, as I lay in the hospital recovering, I decided I needed to change," he added. "No more silence. I was going to win this war against PTSD, so I went into counseling, and I had one goal: to understand my enemy, which was PTSD."
After his attempt, Bauman realized he needed support and received treatment and believes that counseling has made him a stronger man and a stronger Soldier.
"My enemy was strong, but I was stronger," he said. "I ask for help and realize now that asking for help does not make me less of anything. On the contrary, it makes a better Soldier, a better husband, a better father, a better person."
Before the end of Bauman's speech, he reiterated the importance of asking for help and that asking for help is a sign of strength.
"We are here today, to stand together at this moment, to tell the world it is okay not to be okay, "Bauman said toward the end of his speech. "If you or someone you know is struggling, get help – now. Tell a loved one. Tell a friend. No one needs to suffer in silence."
Once the race officially kicked off, Soldiers, Airmen, Sailors, Families, and friends took to the street to take part in the race, showing their support in raising awareness about suicide prevention.
"Our support has been tremendous this first year," said Barta. "This was our inaugural event, so we didn't want to start off too large with the event because we wanted to make sure we ran it properly and have everything set correctly."
Barta credits the hard work of his staff and the 94th's relationship with Fort Lee, the U.S. Army Combined Arms Support Command, and the Office of the Chief of Transportation for making this first event a success.
"We limited the participants to 200, and we had that many sign up," said Barta. "A lot of that is due to the great advertising and promotion that's been done throughout Fort Lee, CASCOM, and their headquarters, as well as through the Office of the Chief of Transportation."
"I would like to thank everyone for their support for this event," he added. "It's about raising awareness overall of this issue for everyone."
If you or someone you know is in crisis, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255 or Military Crisis Line, a free support for all Service members, including members of the National Guard and Reserve, and all Veterans at (800) 273-8255.