SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. --
It is often apparent that a person is in the military if you pay close attention to their outer appearance; the haircut they sport, the clothing they wear or the way they display situational awareness. After all, Reserve Citizen Airmen wear the same uniform and receive the same training to create a cohesive display of professionalism. While this uniformity is vital to maintaining structure within the force, it is also important to recognize that each military member has a personal story lying beneath that well-pressed surface.
For Staff Sgt. Dustin Toth, 310th Force Support Squadron, that story is a difficult one. He recently dealt with an emotional battle and decided to reach out to Alma Mohr, Regional Director of Psychological Health for the 302nd Airlift Wing and 310th Space Wing.
“I reached out to Ms. Alma for a plethora of reasons,” said Toth. “One of the biggest was to get me back on track. She says I am not that far off the rails, but I do feel that I have a lot going on. Not saying I have more than anyone else, but sometimes you need that guiding step to get you back and it doesn’t hurt to see things from a perspective other than your own.”
In the course of her work, Mohr said she has witnessed enormous talent among Airmen when discussing personal backgrounds and interests.
“We have artists, musicians, dancers and authors in our midst,” said Mohr. “There is such an enormous collection of talent that ranges beyond their assigned career fields. As a measure of connection and wingmenship, I have started suggesting that our Airmen share their talent, particularly when it touches the hearts of so many of us.”
During one of their talks, Toth shared a poem with Mohr that he had written about suicide, which Mohr encouraged him to share with others who might be experiencing a similar emotional struggle. The poem reads;
Toth first began writing while still in middle school, he said, and initially despised it. The more he wrote, the more he saw what he could do with it creatively instead of only using it for mandatory essays.
“That realization of creativity was an inspiration as to what I could do as a person,” said Toth. “Later, I shared with my peers what I was writing and the few who saw felt I could inspire and touch on what so many have been afraid to talk about. After that, it just stayed with me and I have grown in my writing ever since.”
Writing has always been an outlet for Toth that he said allows him to voice things that others might not want to hear.
“There are times I write for me, but there are many times where I look out and see so much around that it consumes me,” said Toth. “I feel that there needs to be a voice for it, so I write about it.”
Even though he is still on what he calls an emotional rollercoaster, Toth offers advice to other Reserve Citizen Airmen and civilians who might be going through a difficult time.
“No matter the struggle, no matter how hard things may seem or become, it is not the end,” said Toth. “There are always going to be hurdles in life. It is how we overcome those obstacles, how we get over the hurdle, which will truly define who we are as an individual. Define us not for those we want to notice, but for those who really and truly care for us every day.”
Mohr hopes that Toth’s writing will start an important conversation and create a connection for anyone that can relate to it.
“Please keep in mind that this particular poem discusses suicide,” said Mohr. “Therefore, if you are troubled or triggered by this post, please seek help and talk to someone. As always, if you’re feeling suicidal please remember that you’re loved and that there is hope. Call 9/11 or go to the nearest emergency department.”
Other crisis outreach resources:
Military Crisis Line 24 hour contact number: 1-800-273-TALK (8255), press 1
American Red Cross 24 hour contact number: 1-877-272-7337
Military One Source: 800-342-9647, www.militaryonesource.mil
DoD Safe Helpline: 877-995-5247, safehelpline.org
Peterson AFB Sexual Assault Prevention and Response 24hr hotline: 719-556-7272
National Suicide Prevention hotline: 1-800-273-8255 or suicidepreventionlifeline.org
Wingman Toolkit, http://afrc.wingmantoolkit.org