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NEWS | Feb. 24, 2022

983rd Engineer Battalion Forward Support Company embraces community, health and protective risk factors

By Maj. Khoran Lee 416th Theater Engineer Command

The 983rd Engineer Battalion Forward Support Company (FSC) discussed community, health and protective factors after one of their own died by suicide this year.

Unit leaders want Soldiers to know mental health and their welfare, regardless of duty status, is paramount. The ripple effect of losing a Soldier is felt across not only the unit, but the Army Reserve and Army as a whole.

The unit held a memorial to remember the Soldier, as well as offer opportunities for others to begin to heal in Monclova, Ohio, in January.

Family members of Spc. Xiao Lu, a wheeled vehicle mechanic, and Soldiers from different sections of the Battalion, came together to honor his life at a morning service during Battle Assembly.

The in-house service was conducted by Chaplain (Capt.) Jason Skeens. He discussed the qualities and characteristics of the Soldier to those in attendance to provide comfort during the grieving process.

“He talked about really getting to know each other, respecting each other and communicating. It all ties into the people-first initiative,” said Spc. Christian Coronado, supply sergeant, with the FSC.

Chaplain Skeens also offered pastoral counseling to address Soldiers’ fears, concerns and individual needs, while also assessing the overall needs of the unit. Leadership continues to offer support with the United States
Army Reserve’s Psychological Health Program to provide suicide “postvention” as part of their service option.

“It is important and needs more positive focus,” said Chaplain Skeens in regard to the grieving process. “We are not negating the fact that we are sad; we are grieving and letting our Soldiers know that it is helpful, but with our grieving, we need to reach out to one another.”

“When something like this happens, there is the ‘postvention’ period; even in our best intentions of how we create space tells our Soldiers to reach out for help if they need it,” said Skeens, explaining the terminology that refers to the activities that help reduce risk and promote healing after a suicide death. Chaplain Skeens continued that even though they are saddened by the loss, it is important for Soldiers to accept that grieving is normal. “We’re a team and a family, we need to check in with each other for support.”

As Soldiers stay connected, one of the biggest factors is creating a space for dialogue, just to understand. “One of the things is being careful; it’s not about what you offer, but about what you don’t do as well,” said Skeens. “You have to be really sensitive after suicide.”

The 983rd Battalion Commander, Lt. Col. Robert Mikyska, said his top priority is fostering a climate of trust enabling Soldiers to bring forward any issues they may have for support. “We, as a battalion, are further enhancing our ability to not only communicate the message of hope with options available to resolve life issues, but also allowing for an environment where fellow Soldiers feel empowered to inform their front-line leaders of issues such as this to help in assisting the Soldier in need,” said Mikyska.

The 983rd BN places its people first and will continue to ensure there are resources available for counseling and advice for urgent matters that require immediate attention. Contact your chaplain for religious support or a Suicide Prevention professional or a health care professional for mental health support.

Additional resources for Soldiers in crisis are:

  • Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741 to reach a volunteer Crisis Counselor.
  • Veterans Crisis Line/National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255 (press 1 for Veterans Crisis Line), Text 838255 for Veterans Crisis Line, free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  • Vets4Warriors: 1-855-838-8255 (call, email, text, chat). 24/7 confidential peer support network for veteran and military communities, for anyone who has worn the uniform as well their caregivers and family members.
  • Military and Veterans Crisis Line for immediate 24/7 confidential support: Call 988 and press 1 or text 838255
  • Your unit's Battalion Chaplain for 100 percent confidential counseling and coaching
  • Military One Source for non-emergency counseling, wellness coaching, peer-to-peer support, and more: 1-800-342-9647
  • The Army Resilience Directorate for resources on developing readiness and resilience