In 2014 I was part of a team that saved a Soldier’s life. I was not “down range” in Iraq or Afghanistan, I was sitting in a conference room in Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri surrounded by health specialists.
This team of support staff included a mental health case manager, individual mental health counselor, an Army Substance Abuse Program counselor, a Chaplain, the assigned unit mental health counselor, the military and family advocate, the Brigade S3 SGM and myself (the Brigade S3).
I called the meeting because we were failing.
My Soldier was days away from killing himself and we all knew it.
The Army has every intention of helping those who are suffering from trauma regardless of its origin. Sexual Assault prevention program, Domestic Violence Awareness, Master Resiliency Program, Mental Health programs…and the list goes on. I truly believe the thousands of people employed by these programs are needed, and they do not wake up, come to work, and think:
What Soldier am I going to allow die today?
No one does that. Everyone has good intentions – the system is broken. IT IS NOT WORKING! If you are reading this and disagree with me, check our stats. In no way am I saying these services are not needed, I’m just doing my part in owning the problem.
I went into this conference with an open mind. I wanted to figure this out. His behavior patterns were spiraling out of control and the cycle was picking up. If we didn’t figure this out, the next “logical” step in the process was kicking him out due to discipline and behavior issues, riding this out until he retired in 10 months, or he would die in the process.
Fuck that. There was no way in Hell I was going to allow those scenarios to unfold.
I also had no intentions of enabling him or his behavior. This was about personal accountability by everyone, including me. Along with some basic common sense.
No man spends countless hours with individual mental health counseling, group mental health counseling, marriage counseling, multiple trips to Rehab, Army substance abuse program (ASAP) counseling, AA meetings, spiritual counseling, and a regimented and sometimes overzealous physical fitness program and wants to die.
He wanted to live – he just didn’t know how – he was searching for help.
There was only one option in my mind – healing him.
So, there we sat in a conference room, trying to figure it out.
I asked a simple question to these specialists: What do we need to do?
Well, we can provide him the support but he has to choose to receive treatment
I’m not sure what else we can do for him, he’s receiving every service we offer. He’s not making the right choices.
We can only do so much.
I had no idea he was enrolled in the Army Substance Abuse Program. He’s been drinking regularly.
I cut them off at that point.
Now, the SGM and I had already figured out a gap in his treatment program. He was confiding in all the male Soldiers in my shop, but not the females. He also resisted in confiding in me but would SGM. He had a gender block. All his counselors were female.
When we requested a couple of counselors be switched to Males – we were told No.
I don’t like being told No. Especially when I’m taking care of Soldiers.
As a senior female officer, I didn’t give a flying fuck he preferred males – this was about him and his needs.
That is what landed us in the room in the first place.
So, as I stopped these crazy responses I was hearing around the table of basically everyone in the system covering their ass because they knew the path he was on…
Why do you not know he is in ASAP? He’s been in and out of rehab since his third deployment. That doesn’t make sense to me, it’s part of his history and in his file.
HIPAA regulations – we are not authorized to disclose information to other programs
Are you fucking kidding me….
His treatment had been stovepiped based on these different programs for years. His treatment was as compartmentalized as he was...
Now, of course the Army has a system in place. The lead case manager who received reports from these different program managers, consolidated them, and spent time with my Soldier every month discussing his overarching treatment program.
I turned to her.
What is your stance on this?
Well, I have a session with him every month. But, his major complaint is being stressed at work.
Ma’am – he is rarely at work. He is always with one of you. When he’s not with you, he’s dealing with family issues, or he shows up drunk, drinks on the job, or is in the gym.
Well, that is what he tells me every month.
How long do you spend with him?
15-30 minutes a month. I also do not understand this female issue, this is my job, he needs to talk to me.
.... I almost punched her in the face.
Now, the Soldier was waiting for us in a different room as I was well aware he and his direct supervisor (who also was diagnosed with PTSD and enabling him) had a role in this too.
We finally “agreed” based on very strict guidance from me to change out some of his counselors to males. I knew that was what he specifically needed to move forward at that time.
I maintain contact with him today - he is better - he is still not healed.
The Army provided him coping mechanisms, ways to identify triggers, implement healthy habits....
He is alive but he is not living.
Through this experience I realized a couple hard facts:
1. The Army system is broken
2. Soldiers are searching for help
3. I was going to do my part to fix it
Walking out of that conference room - I made a choice.
I chose to heal us.
I will do anything in my power to save a Soldiers life, regardless if we are pushing paper or pulling triggers.
There is a simple reason why - they would do it for me.
Now, what I didn’t know at the time of my choice – in order to heal others, you must first heal yourself.
For the last 3 years – that is what I’ve been doing, in my own way, in my own time.
Prior to that day, I never struggled to get out of bed and head into work. I was driven by my love of Soldiers to show up everyday.
After that day, I struggled to get up...for many different reasons.
Over the years, I've pitched different programs as I learned something new about healing others....they all tanked....one after the next...
I continued to struggle getting out of bed...it didn't make sense to me, I love the Army. Leading Soldiers is an absolute honor, it is a gift.
Any good leader will tell you – don’t bring me a problem without the solution.
Well.....I was up at 0500 today - I just left the office at 1930hrs...
I have the solution and WE are ready to bring it to the Army.
Next Chapter on my personal Healing Journey
The next chapter on my personal healing Journey goes into detail in regards to my life following the Mind Alignment Process or MAP Session with Jeff.
*If you are inspired and choose to deepen your relationship with Love by joining TFAS or Life Purpose Class - I invite you to refer me, Chrissy Kay, at time of purchase. You will receive 4 weeks of FREE coaching in my live group coaching class. Check it out here.