MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, NC --
Marines and sailors from 12 battalions and more than 2,900 personnel within 2nd Marine Division participated in the first R.A.C.E for suicide awareness aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, NC, April 16-17, 2014.
R.A.C.E is an acronym for recognize, act, care and escort, the four steps in helping to prevent suicide. The relay focused on team building, unit cohesion and increasing awareness of suicide prevention in order to maintain mission readiness, enhance unit camaraderie and cohesion and heighten force preservation.
Lasting 24 hours, teams of 10 from the participating units in the division took turns running laps around W.P.T. Hill Field.
Brig. Gen. James W. Lukeman, the commanding general for 2nd Marine Division, motivated the Marines and sailors prior to the run and talked to them about the importance of raising suicide awareness.
Suicide in the Marine Corps has declined since 2012, and continuing to raise awareness is important in the success of reducing the problem of suicide in the military.
Maj. Paul Herzberg, commanding officer for Headquarters Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, said that this event really brought home the message that Lukeman was trying to send.
“With how much we’ve put in to putting this all together, I think it tells the Marines that he’s serious, concerned, and that he does want to get the word out there to do the right thing and take care of your Marines,” said Herzberg. “I think he really hit his point by having a fun event with something to compete for, but still raising suicide awareness.”
Sgt. Christopher MacDonald, a platoon sergeant with Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, agreed that this event raised awareness for suicide prevention. He also said that since suicide is a problem in the Marine Corps, that Marines need to look after themselves, they need to be aware of suicide, and they need to try and prevent it the best they can.
Both MacDonald and Herzberg said that after they finished running their separate relays, they felt great about what they had accomplished.
“You just have to do what you have to do to keep running,” said MacDonald. “I felt pretty good and definitely more accomplished after completing it.”
“It was fun getting to come out here with some of the Marines from the company and getting to run around with them," said Herzberg. "Everybody was motivated and had a good time, so it was a worthwhile cause.”
However, just like with every competition, there must be a winner, and that winner was 2nd Bn., 2nd Marines, which won for the most laps ran during the race with a total of 148 of the 1,240 cumulative laps ran around the field.
MacDonald said that this win will definitely put the Marines with 2nd Bn., 2nd Marines on the map within the Division.
“It feels pretty good to have won," said MacDonald. "Everyone in the division will know who 2/2 is. They’ll know that we’re a force to be reckoned with.”
Although this was meant to be a fun event, it came with a serious message. Marines and sailors are now more aware of the signs of suicide, and what they can do to help prevent it thanks to different booths set up for information, such as Military Family and Life Counselors. They were also given different resources that they can use whenever they need assistance.
If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, or needs someone to talk to, you can go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org, dstressline.com, militaryonesource.mil, or on-base Military and Family Life Counselors and chaplains.