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NEWS | Jan. 6, 2023

First line leaders surround Soldier during difficult times

By Cheryl Phillips 88th Readiness Division

The leadership from a Machesney Park, Illinois, Army Reserve unit and the 389th Engineer Battalion headquartered here, combined forces to help a Soldier deal with thoughts of suicide.

What began as an 8-hour search for the Soldier ended in getting him the mental health support he needed.

The Soldier first attempted suicide early December. “He went into the woods with a pistol with intent to kill himself,” said Capt. Louis Goldstein, 389th Engineer Battalion plans officer. “He pulled out [of the situation] and called us the next day. I asked him if he had the intent to kill himself. He said ‘yes,’ but didn’t because he had things to live for.”

Goldstein explained that he and the Soldier talked about available behavioral health resources, and the Soldier’s platoon leader, team leader and squad leader from the 469th Combat Engineer Company Infantry also checked in with him periodically.

“We built a network around the Soldier, which had already been active,” Goldstein said.

Goldstein met the Soldier a few weeks later to learn if his life was going in the right direction. “The Soldier confirmed he was taking advantage of the resources available to him,” Goldstein said.

Unfortunately, toward the end of December, the Soldier was having a bad day and spiraled out of control. According, to Goldstein, the Soldier was sending social media messages with photos of him with a pistol at his head and finger on the trigger.

During this time the Soldier sent a text as well to his First Sergeant. This text with its tone and context was seen as a suicide note and a good-bye letter. Taking immediate and decisive action, the first sergeant coordinated with Goldstein to involve the local police to start a search for the Soldier.

Being unable to reach the Soldier, Goldstein and the Soldier’s first sergeant, platoon leader, squad leader and former squad leader dropped what they were doing (work, families, and personal commitments) and departed to search for the Soldier. Many of them drove up to 2-1/2 hours to the Soldier’s residence to try to find him. Additionally, Goldstein talked to the Soldier’s mom about the search and told her the unit leaders cared about her son and wanted to help.

What transpired is that the Soldier was driving around but due to dense fog he had driven off the road and into the ditch. He lost his cell phone, which was why no one could reach him. The Soldier called his mom from a gas station where she picked him up.

Goldstein talked to the Soldier and his mom the next day and told him that the Wounded Warrior Project, a nonprofit that supports service members and veterans, could enroll him in a 30-day program at a mental health facility in El Paso, Texas, if the Soldier was interested. He was.

Within 48 hours the Soldier accompanied by his mom traveled to El Paso where the journey back to positive mental health began.

“What makes this story unique is the attentiveness of the First Line Leaders and their willingness to jump in,” Goldstein said. “It’s our opportunity to intervene. When Soldiers can trust their leadership, they are confident to speak up [about suicidal ideations].”

Goldstein has spoken to the Soldier, who’s doing well. “His mom is super grateful for our help. The Soldier is also thankful for the opportunity [to improve his mental health],” Goldstein said.

“I’m glad the Soldier is safe. This is how a family takes care of each other,” Goldstein said.