Nearly four years after an improvised explosive device went off near Sgt. Kimberly Agar’s vehicle in Iraq, she took her own life in 2011 while deployed in Germany.
“I want things to change,” said her mother Margy Agar. “I don’t want it swept under the covers anymore. She died almost four years to the day that bomb happened.”
Agar joined more than 400 soldiers, family members and civilians Thursday at French and Blue Fields for Fort Benning’s second annual Suicide Awareness Walk. The walk gave the group a chance to show support for suicide awareness and education, said Denise Stephens, the post’s suicide prevention project manager.
“It’s been an area the Army has been focusing both for prevention and intervention over the last three to five years, understanding the stress of deployment and redeployments,” Stephens said. “The stress of young families really creates an environment where we really need to encourage resiliency and we need to encourage help seeking behavior.”
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Prevention efforts apparently are making a difference at Fort Benning. Last year, Stephens said the post had only four suicide deaths. So far this year, the Army has three incidents under investigation.
“Fort Benning tends to run lower than the Army average,” Stephens said. “There are still some pending investigations. The way the Army works it takes a while because of the thorough investigation process.”
Post officials won’t comment on the soldier deaths, but the Muscogee County County Coroner’s office said two deaths occurred in Columbus. One was a 38-year-old captain who shot his girlfriend in February at the American Storage Rental Spaces on Victory Drive. A couple of weeks later, the coroner’s office was called to a home on Warm Springs Road where a soldier died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound following a domestic dispute. Both deaths have been ruled suicide but the Army conducts a thorough investigation before they are listed.
Causes of deaths may be related to relationship problems, financial problems and misuse of substances, Stephens said.
At least 15 agencies were available to help soldiers and familes with prevention information and how to get help. “When you start looking across the installation, every soldier, every civilian is responsible for the ability to encourage resiliency and encourage help seeking behavior,” Stephens said.