CHARLESTON, W.Va. —
There is no question that serving in today’s military is challenging. It is even more so when you couple that service with balancing the unique factors of being a member of the National Guard. Our Nation has been at continuous war for nearly two decades, the world is fraught with discord, and we face new tests as we work to develop a fighting force to address future conflicts. While these are merely a few examples of the military-centric issues we face as a National Guard, the Soldiers and Airmen who make up the nearly 6,500-strong West Virginia National Guard are tested daily with their own struggles and challenges.
I’m here to let you know that you are not alone.
September is a month set aside to focus on resiliency and suicide prevention in the United States, and particularly in the military. But, 30 days is not enough for us to tackle some of the greatest issues facing our men and women in uniform. This topic must be a constant conversation for everyone throughout the year.
Having served in the Army for nearly 39 years, I’m no stranger to the highs and lows that come with the job. Many of the problems that face our force today are not necessarily military related – it may involve relationships, financial issues, difficulties in balancing work and school, or any number of factors that a person deals with on a daily basis. Suicide and mental health treatment are complex issues with individualistic factors, but together we can overcome setbacks, recover and grow from adversities to thrive on a daily basis.
One of the greatest benefits of service in the National Guard is that we are more than just Soldiers and Airmen who put on the uniform; we are a family and family takes care of one another. Every person who I serve with in the West Virginia National Guard is important, not only to me, but also to their unit, their friends, their family and to the overall mission of the organization. We could not be as successful as we are without you!
As a family, I want to encourage everyone to be an advocate for positive change. This can be accomplished by being there for your peers, serving as a mentor, reaching out to those in need and assisting people with being connected to help. In order to change, we must help erase the stigma associated with seeking treatment for mental health or other circumstances in a service members life. There are numerous resources available within the West Virginia National Guard for service members and their families. From mental health services to financial counseling and employment assistance, we have people available any time to assist you or your family when you need it most. Our goal is for every Soldier, Airman and family member to have the resources available to make it through any tough times and to know that they are not alone.
As we move toward closing out another busy year for our force, I’m reminded daily of the exceptional work being carried out by each one of you. Myself and the rest of the Army and Air Force leadership are inspired by your willingness to accept any challenge thrown your way, the tenacity you display and the ingenuity you utilize when accomplishing the mission. I couldn’t be more proud to serve alongside each and every one of you.
If you or someone you know is in need of assistance, I urge you to get connected with one of the resources below:
WVARNG Crisis Hotline – 304-561-6640 (on call 24/7)
Veteran and Family Crisis Hotline – 800-273-8255
WVARNG Chaplain – 304-561-6490
Director of Psychological Health (130th AW) – 304-341-6516
Director of Psychological Health (167th AW) – 304-616-5939
Family Readiness – 304-561-6826
Sexual Assault Response Coordinator – 304-561-6681
WVNG Financial Counseling – 304-561-6784
Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve – 304-201-3579
WVNG Education Office – 304-561-6370