Third Brigade holds suicide stand-down

By Laurie Bernstein - bio | email

FORT BENNING, GA (WTVM) - Army commanders are no longer staying silent about PTSD and suicide.

Combat brigades all over the nation are holding suicide stand-downs; Friday,it was the Third Brigade's turn.

"We spend so much time preparing you for battle, so today, we will help prepare you for life," said Third Brigade commander Colonel Pete Jones, while he spoke in front of his soldiers on Sledgehammer Field.

Before the troops broke down into smaller groups to talk about the signs of suicide and ways to deal with stress, they heard from Ronnie Dalton.

Her son, Specialist Jaime Dalton, served two tours in Iraq.

A couple weeks after returning home, he shot himself in the head, right in front of a group of his fellow Third Brigade soldiers.

Nobody saw it coming.

"You can be tough, smart, and a really good soldier, but one second your world is normal and fine, then something happens, and next second, you're pointing a gun at your head," said Dalton.

Hearing from the mother of one of the fallen really resonated for some, who realized that the ripple effects of suicide touch so many.

"I'm from Phenix City, and it would devastate my mom if I commit suicide.  We as soldiers, we carry a lot of burdens, and we don't like to talk to people, but it's better to open up," said Sergeant Johnny Clay Jr., a Third Brigade soldier.

"There is that pride factor...we're the big man, the Army soldier, the combat soldier. There are still going to be some people that won't come forward, but they need to. I don't think its anything that should be brushed aside," said Specialist Adam Behrend, another Third Brigade soldier.

The stigmas about PTSD and suicide may never fully disappear, but for these soldiers on Kelley Hill, it's a battle they are willing to take on.