Resiliency Day commander's call leaves Airmen thinking, empowered

  • Published
  • By by Airman 1st Class Lindsey A. Beadle
  • 11th Wing Public Affairs
Airmen from The Chief's Own, 11th Wing attended a Resiliency Day commander's call at the base theater Jan. 26 to discuss the topic of suicide in the Air Force and the Air Force's initiative of persisting resiliency in the wake of hardship.

Unlike a traditional commander's call, the event was aimed to challenge audience members, forcing them to look at and evaluate the very-real consequences of suicide.

The darkened theater opened to a reenactment of a full-service military funeral by the U.S. Air Force Honor Guard, Fire Team and Andrews Players, Andrews's on-base acting ensemble, which set the tone for the commander's call. This somber scene assured all in attendance that the day's topic was no joke.

The opening act left out no amenities as each honor guard member performed their funeral role in full service dress and with ritualistic precision, just as they would in an actual military funeral. The Air Force Honor Guard Fire Team's rifle shots echoed against the walls of the base theater as they concluded the event's skit with a resonating 21-gun salute.

Following the mock funeral, Senior Airman Srun Sookmeewiriya, 11th Civil Engineer Squadron structural apprentice, took the stage to give his personal testimony concerning the first-hand tragedies he had experienced due to suicide.

"When I was 8 years old my mother committed suicide," said Sookmeewiriya. "Then when I was I was 9 my father committed suicide, leaving me to care for my youngest brother alone."

Sookmeewiriya went on to explain how the tragedy of losing his mother and his father due to suicide and having to deal with the added pressure of caring for his youngest brother, who was physically impaired and in constant need of medical care and personal attention, left himself feeling alone and helpless.

"I felt like I had nowhere to go, that I couldn't take it anymore, so I decided to take my life one night," said Sookmeewiriya. "But, when I tried, I was so confused because, what I had tried didn't work. Later, my sister talked to me about what I had done. She asked me 'Do you feel good about what you did?' She explained to me that if I left this world that I would be leaving not only her, but also my little brother. When I heard that, that's when I started to turn my life around."

Sookmeewiriya wasn't the only Airman to share his personal testimony with the audience. Col. Ken Rizer, 11th Wing/Joint Base Andrews commander, took the stage to share his own reflection and insight concerning suicide, personal tragedy and the importance of continued resiliency.

"Everyone has issues," said Rizer. "And let me be the first to tell you that life is not easy! Resiliency comes when an Airman chooses to rise above pressure instead of letting it define him or her. Being resilient isn't necessarily about overcoming hardship even though that's a big part of it. Being truly resilient is about knowing yourself, knowing your limits, and knowing that it's ok to ask for help."

Even though the Resiliency Day all call has ended, the importance of suicide awareness and continued resiliency in the face of this and other tragedies hasn't.

"I hope every single Airman understands that no matter how difficult a situation gets, there will always be people that care about them," said Master Sgt. Gregory Ramacciotti, 11th Wing Staff Agency first sergeant. "One does not have to face difficulties alone. There are many supporting agencies on and off base able and willing to help. Never give up!"