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USO Fort Campbell Describes Its Measures in Suicide Prevention

Friday, September 21, 2012

Kari Burgess-Brown sees it every day. As center director of USO Fort Campbell, her daily interactions with troops give her firsthand knowledge of the lives that our military families lead. Her sister is the wife of a serviceman, allowing Kari to sympathize with military spouses as they deal with challenges on the home front. 

In recognition of National Suicide Prevention Month, Kari shares her thoughts on the high instance of suicide in the military and what the USO — and USO Fort Campbell specifically — does to combat this serious issue.  

"Officially, September is Suicide Prevention Month, but we take it seriously throughout the year at Fort Campbell. Every month, I sit in the Suicide Prevention Working Group meeting and we are briefed on all of the suicides since the last meeting. There are two common, underlying stressors in these suicides: troubled relationships and financial hardships. We work hard to build awareness of what the USO Fort Campbell already does to help couples and to fill financial gaps and we continually explore new ways to make a bigger impact.

"Of course, everything we do for active duty and their families is free. Every Wednesday, we provide lunch for soldiers. We host monthly family dinners, brew coffee all day and give a snack and beverage to every guest. We buy the newest video games for our inventory for guests to enjoy without paying a $60 price tag. And our events, computer services and entertainment opportunities always provide something to do without costing soldiers and families money. These aren’t giant actions with sweeping benefits, but we’ll save the soldier that likes to go somewhere for that first cup of coffee before work more than $260 a year, which could be an entire car payment.

"Recently, we started working with new partners to facilitate the Dave Ramsey Financial Peace for Military Families program. This provides us a unique opportunity to build a bridge between financial hardships and struggling relationships and we are thrilled with how it seems to be falling into place to meet the demand of the program.

"Our local sporting and theater partners have been very generous in gifting us tickets to distribute to couples for date nights. To further our impact on stronger relationships at Fort Campbell, we brought a WTB (Warrior Transition Battalion) couple on a Rivers of Recovery fly fishing trip in Utah. We are also hosting Stronger Families to conduct an “Oxygen for Your Relationship” facilitator training and a couple’s seminar in October. These seminars help couples better understand each other and improve their communication.

"We've heard from people all over Fort Campbell that the USO is really a resiliency resource for soldiers and families and we are continually looking for places where our mission to lift the spirits of troops and their families intersects with suicide prevention efforts. For us, it isn’t about finding the big solution. It is about working every day to deliver goodness so our soldiers and their families know that they are a part of our family, that we love them and that we are here to support them."

* * *

To learn more about suicide prevention and how to identify signs for concern, visit Veterans Crisis Line. 

(Photo caption: USO Fort Campbell provides assistance to troops and their families.) 

Federal employees can help the USO fulfill its mission to support troops and their families through the 2012 Combined Federal Campaign. Please designate #11381. 

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