They were only one week into basic combat training, but two soldiers saved the life of a fellow trainee in Fort Sill, Oklahoma, who was on the verge of suicide.
Pvts. Carlos Fontanez and Ari Till had just received their initial uniforms, immunizations, and an orientation into what their next 9 weeks would be like.
On the morning of Sept. 3. Pvt. Till was going about his morning duties when hestepped in to save a life.
“On Thursday morning I entered the latrines. I was doing some cleaning and I heard a commotion off to my side. I saw Fontanez helping his battle buddy who was in a mental health crisis, and we stepped in and got him the help that he needed,” said Till.
Even though they had only been living together in the bays a few days, Fontanez realized that his battle buddy was struggling and intended to hurt himself.
“He slept to the right of me … With previous events that had happened, I kind of realized maybe I should talk to him. In the latrine I saw what was going down and I was just telling him, ‘C’mon, think about what you’re about to do,’” said Fontanez.
Fontanez saw that the trainee was using PT belt as a noose, he quickly grabbed the fellow trainee and got him down.
“I lifted him up so he could breathe, and Till unclipped the PT belt, and we just got him down and stayed by him until he got help,” shared Fontanez.
As soon as Fontanez and Till got the trainee out of immediate danger, drill sergeants and cadre took over. The trainee is safe and receiving professional medical care.
Although they both hail from different locations Fontanez, originally from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and Till, a native of Rochester, New York, they both have personally experienced the loss of friends or loved ones that attempted to die by suicide.
They shared their thoughts on what to look for to identify if someone is having a crisis.
Till shared, “If they’re normally a social person and you see a distinct change in their mood, or the way they interact with the people around them,” that’s a sign.”
Fontanez said noticing if an individual is not getting enough sleep, food, or other basic needs, that may be a sign they are in crisis.
“Really, just pay attention to everything that’s going on,” said Fontanez.
Both Till and Fontanez were presented with a unit coin by Lt. Col. Mark Larson, 1st Battalion, 19th Field Artillery commander to thank them for their quick actions.
They had mixed reactions to being awarded for what happened.
“On the first day, I didn’t know if I wanted to keep it here with me because of my personal relationship with people who have had problems with that. I didn’t want a reminder. But the longer time has passed I like having it because it is a reminder that (he) is OK, and there are people out there that will do the right thing,” said Till.
Fontanez shared, “I like having it. I see it every day, realize what Till and I did, and it kind of just brings me to the point where it’s like you know, he’s still here with us.”
September is National Suicide Awareness month and its important to note people usually want the pain to end. It isn’t that they want to actually die.
If you or anyone you know are in crisis you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Press 1 for the Military Crisis Line. You can also text 838255.