Author Topic: Weldon's Story  (Read 262 times)

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Offline txradioguy

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Weldon's Story
« on: December 04, 2018, 02:20:58 PM »
Originally published 09.29.2014

By Sgt. 1st Class XXXX X. XXXXXXXX
10th Army Air and Missile Defense Command Public Affairs


KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany - “Saying goodbye to someone that was a friend, a co-worker, a Soldier you were entrusted with to mold and develop is one of the hardest things a leader ever has to do. Especially in a situation that didn’t involve that person being in harm’s way. And it never gets easier no matter how many times you have to go through it.”

I wrote and spoke those words almost eight years ago from the pulpit of the Memorial Chapel at Ft. Myer, Virginia. The Soldier I was speaking about during that solemn ceremony was Pfc. Joshua Weldon, a ceremonial announcer at the prestigious 3rd United States Infantry (The Old Guard) who had recently passed away.

Josh was my Soldier.

I’d first met him when he was in AIT and I was at Fort Meade, Maryland for an advanced journalism course. I can still remember the terrified look on his face as this staff sergeant called out to him from across the chow hall to come and sit at his table. His fear turned to relief when I introduced myself. The next three weeks became a great opportunity of mentorship that I had hoped would be vital to his success as a Soldier, especially in light of his first duty station in the Army.

Upon his arrival to The Old Guard he was eager and ready to learn and took to the job, quickly becoming an integral part of our team. His first mission was narrating a promotion with then Chief of Staff of the Army General George Casey as the host. He returned from that mission amazed that a private had been telling a four-star general where to stand and when to sit down.

But not everything was wine and roses. Josh came to us battling shin splints. The condition had actually cost him being named honor graduate of his class at the Defense Information School. We did our best to mitigate the problem in various ways, but you could tell the pressure to get out and do PT like the rest of the Soldiers, not to mention the pain he was experiencing was wearing on him.

The first warning sign that something wasn’t right flew right by all of us. Hindsight being what it is; I probably should have started an intervention right then and there. Josh had had an on-again, off-again relationship with an AIT classmate who was assigned to the Virginia National Guard. During the Fourth of July weekend 2008, I was having a platoon cook out at my house and Josh and his parents were there. Josh had not brought his girlfriend with him because she’d broken up with him the week prior via private message on MySpace. So imagine my surprise the day after the cook out when he shows up at my doorstep, girlfriend in tow to ask me about a computer problem. They were back on again, and they were getting married. My wife and I shared a look of surprise but said nothing.

Throughout the summer and into the fall Josh bounced from profile to profile as the problems with his legs continued. Because he was unable to maintain a regular PT regimen, weight became an issue and it added to the stress Josh was already feeling. The prescribed pain meds were helping, but only to an extent.

By Halloween Josh started showing up late to formation or calling in giving excuses for why he couldn’t make formation. His attitude at work turned sour as well. After a round of counseling statements I realized the sessions wasn’t working and sensed that what was going on with Josh was more than just burnout from our rigorous schedule and heavy work load. I called his squad leader, Staff Sgt. Matthew DeWaegeneer into my office and we both agreed to help Josh and that something wasn’t right with him. We devised a plan to re-engage the doctors on his behalf to try and get his leg problems fixed and to get him additional help if necessary. We debated whether to let him go on leave and start everything after he got back or to deny his leave and begin assisting him now. I ultimately decided to let him go on leave, thinking the time away from work would do him good and hopefully he’d return with a new outlook.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

I found out Josh had died on Saturday Dec. 6, 2008. Pfc. Weldon died at his parent’s house, in his old room, after taking too many of the OxyContin he’d been prescribed for his leg pain. He went to sleep and simply never woke up. The news hit me like a brick to the head. I’ll be honest; my first thought when the shock of the news had worn off was a totally selfish one, “Am I going to get in trouble?” The next few days, the whole month really, was a blur of responses to questions about what had happened for the Commanders Critical Incident Report, consoling my Soldiers, and trying to answer their questions of how this happened when I didn’t have an answer myself.

All the while the mission never stopped. The ceremonies and my platoon’s part in them continued unabated. Concurrently there was the coordination for the upcoming memorial service and facing the two people I would have given anything at that time to not have faced – Josh’s parents. Those same two people who’d sat on my porch just five months prior, who told me they felt like their son was in good hands with me, who trusted me to take care of their child. I worried now that my ability to lead the other Soldiers in my platoon had been damaged, that I had somehow let them down too by not preventing Pfc. Weldon’s death.

I’d failed them all.

I know that’s not the reality, but to this day that’s how I feel and no one can convince me otherwise. I’d seen the signs that Josh was in trouble, but if I’d only moved a little faster, if only I’d denied his leave, if I’d recognized the signs of his mental pain sooner.

If only.

This is only the second time I’ve talked about Pfc. Weldon’s death to anyone outside my family or the soldiers that were in my Platoon at The Old Guard. I was ashamed; embarrassed to talk about it for fear of someone thinking I was a bad leader. The first time I talked publicly about his death was just a couple months ago, three days after a soldier in our battalion had taken his own life. He was well liked; a good friend to his fellow soldiers and his death came as a shock to all that knew him, Just like Josh’s.

I was acting battery first sergeant that day and what I said to the soldiers assembled before me was this; take the time to notice the people around you, the soldiers to your left and right. We’re in an electronic world and spend so much time wrapped up in our Smart Phones, tablets and game consoles that we totally ignore those around us. Pull your eyes away from the screen and focus on the people around you, ask how they’re doing, listen to what they say. That simple act could very well save a life. Taking the time to notice a change in behavior or attitude of fellow soldier could save you from going through the pain I went through, from having to carry the burden I carry today. It could very well save you from doing what I had to do, and that was to look into the grieving faces of parents who’d entrusted you with their son and tell them you’re sorry, knowing full well that apology will never give them what they want.

The one thing I left out of those remarks eight years ago that I should have included was that Josh’s death was totally preventable. Myself and Josh’s squad leader knew something was wrong with him, we saw the signs of a soldier crying out for help, we devised a plan and were ready to implement it upon his return from leave, but I ended up tossing a 15 foot rope to a drowning man seventeen feet away. My message to anyone who reads my story, don’t wait. Don’t look at the clock and say “oh it’s 1700 we can talk to him or her tomorrow.”

Tomorrow may never come.
The libs/dems of today are the Quislings of former years. The cowards who would vote a fraud into office in exchange for handouts from the devil.

Here lies in honored glory an American soldier, known but to God

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Re: Weldon's Story
« Reply #1 on: December 04, 2018, 02:45:15 PM »
 :thumbsup:
I will NOT comply.
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Offline Sanguine

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Re: Weldon's Story
« Reply #2 on: December 04, 2018, 02:57:56 PM »
Quote
I ended up tossing a 15 foot rope to a drowning man seventeen feet away. My message to anyone who reads my story, don’t wait. Don’t look at the clock and say “oh it’s 1700 we can talk to him or her tomorrow.”

Nice summation.
Cui bono?

Walk in Wisdom
See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.

But the noble make noble plans, and by noble deeds they stand.

Offline txradioguy

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Re: Weldon's Story
« Reply #3 on: December 04, 2018, 03:04:18 PM »
The libs/dems of today are the Quislings of former years. The cowards who would vote a fraud into office in exchange for handouts from the devil.

Here lies in honored glory an American soldier, known but to God

THE ESTABLISHMENT IS THE PROBLEM...NOT THE SOLUTION

Republicans Don't Need A Back Bench...They Need a BACKBONE!

Offline GrouchoTex

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Re: Weldon's Story
« Reply #4 on: December 04, 2018, 03:32:25 PM »

Online Sighlass

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Re: Weldon's Story
« Reply #5 on: December 06, 2018, 09:23:41 AM »
The Depression of not being able to do something physical that you feel as a man one should be able to do must be crushing. I can imagine the stress of seeing others feeling less of you because the possibility that you are lazy when nothing can be further from the truth.
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