When a Facebook page community heard that a member of the United States military was contemplating suicide, they sprung into action, traveling as much as 100 miles to try and find the "battle buddy" in trouble.
Awesome Shit My Drill Sergeant Said is a "satire" Facebook page designed for "prospective/current/former Soldiers and Drill Sergeants to come and have a laugh and re-live memories from the past and sharing stories."
A little after 1:00 AM one night, the topics went from humorous to serious when "Dan", a Staff Sergeant in the Army National Guard and creator of the Facebook page, posted the following:
TROOP IN TROUBLE: We just received a request for help from a troop that turned to us in desperation because it is the middle of the night and no one in the chain of command is picking up the phone and he sincerely believes his battle is planning to take his own life tonight.
If you are in or near Kingsport, TN or know a battle that is, email me ASAP. Please share this... so as I get more details we have a large reach able to respond and hopefully intercede."
According to an Army Times report, the U.S. Army had 28 suicides during the first 7 months of 2012. The Marine Corps has had 32 suicides, and the Navy has had 39. Fifty-five Air Force airmen have committed suicide during the same period. On average, a suicide occurs once every 27 hours.
The Defense Department has stepped up efforts to recognize warning signs and assist members of the military with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression and other mental health issues, investing $110 million into its Military Suicide Prevention Program in 2008.
Sometimes those efforts are not enough however.
On Oct. 24, 2012, Dan received a Facebook message which said:
“I don’t know where else to turn,” the message read. “I’m 100% certain that my friend is planning on killing himself tonight and I cannot get a hold of him or anyone that can get to him. Can you help me?”
The TROOP IN TROUBLE message went out, and for the next four hours, Dan received emails and messages from fellow soldiers, law enforcement officers, firefighters, hostage negotiators, paramedics, crisis counselors, and many others offering to help. Twenty people rushed to Kingsport in an effort to find the soldier in trouble. The soldier was not at his last known address however, and he had stopped responding to text messages.
There were nearly 1,500 responses to Dan's post. People from across the United States and as far away as Australia, and Afghanistan responded, all asking for updates on the soldiers situation.
Dan managed to get the LAT/LONG coordinates from the soldier's cell phone. Those coordinates are a general location however, good within 100 meters. Those who responded to the location arrived at a large apartment complex containing hundreds of apartments. They had no apartment number.
Refusing to give up, Dan continued to scour the internet. He managed to locate the unit the soldier was assigned to, as well as the cell phone number of 1st Lt. Andrew Kelley, the unit's executive officer. Dan informed Lt. Kelley of the situation and both Kelley and Captain Haris Balcinovic immediately responded.
At 5 a.m., Dan received the following message:
“We picked him up. The soldier is safe.”