Commentary Search

Are we doing enough?

  • Published
  • By By SMSgt Gloria Wilson
  • 90th Missile Wing Public Affairs

He's dead now.

My friend Henry was such a comedian. He did the goofiest things to make you laugh, and his antics always succeeded. Although he was funny, he was also sensitive and at times took things to heart. He strived to be number one and pushed himself to be the best he could. I know this as a friend and as an employer, because when I first met Henry he worked for me.

As sweet as Henry was, I never thought of him romantically, however, I found out that wasn’t the case for him. I explained to him that we could only be friends.

Time passed on, I found a new job and Henry remained at my former place of employment, and although we worked at different places, we kept in touch.

Henry would visit me at my new job unannounced and although I tried to be someone Henry could count on, I tried my best to discourage these visits as I didn't want to give him false hopes of a relationship.

He would travel for an hour and a half on bus to see me for 15 minutes, which I didn't consider a normal thing for people who were just friends to do. Now that I look back, I pushed him away a lot, thinking I was doing the right thing.

Time went on.

On Valentine's Day he gave me a card stating that he knew he could be a pest sometimes, but whenever he needed someone to talk to I listened, and he didn't really have anyone else who cared.

Time went on.

The next card I received from him was waiting for me at work because Henry, once again, had arrived unannounced and I was off that day. I still have the card and the words are engraved upon my memory.

"I'm sorry if I've been bothering you, but I'm going through a tough time and I was hoping you could help me."

I dismissed it as Henry being Henry, and we ended up losing touch.

After not hearing from him for quite a while, a mutual friend and I decided to go to his last known work location since his number was disconnected. I can still taste the salty tears that flowed, the taste of bile in my mouth and feel the heat on my face when they told me that Henry had committed suicide.

Although the person’s voice telling me the details sounded far away, I remember being told that Henry had found a girlfriend, and when they started having problems he hung himself in his garage with a tie.

The first thing I thought about was the card he gave me.

The next thing I thought about was maybe I could have prevented it.

How many times do we get too busy with our lives and jobs that we don't take the time out to notice what might be right in front of us?

How many times as supervisors do we treat the problem, like an Airman being late for work, then try and find out the reason why? Yes, many of us ask, some of us do this, but how many take the answer at face value and don't truly take the time to look at the whole picture?

I'm not saying we need to be detectives. What I'm saying is use the tools they give us, look for the signs they tell us, and don't disregard them.

For those of you who are friends or co-workers, how many times has someone gone through something and maybe displayed signs, but you've convinced yourself that they'll get over it? Or you think bringing it up to someone might get the person in trouble so you convince yourself that they’ll be fine? Or you simply don't tell anyone because you're afraid you'll be marked as someone who can’t keep their mouths shut?

Not every situation will be the same; they'll be different; maybe more subtle, maybe more blatant than my friend Henry. The point is if you're not actively engaged and actively searching for them, you might miss something and someone might die. So ask yourself, 'Are you doing enough?' and if you're not—start.

Editor's note: There are various resources available if you are concerned about someone such as the Airman and Family Readiness Center, Military Family Life Consultants, Mental Health Clinic, Family Advocacy Program and installation chaplains and first sergeants.