By Airman 1st Class Ericka A. Woolever, 31st Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published September 17, 2019
U.S Air Force Senior Airman Mason R. Cardounel, 31st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, 56th Helicopter Maintenance Unit electronic warfare journeyman, looks out a window, Sept. 11, 2019, at Aviano Air Base, Italy. People investing their time to build trust is a way to deliberately care for, support, and connect with one another. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ericka A. Woolever).
Death leaves a heartache that is often difficult to heal from, because it can be tough to forget someone who gave so much to remember.
“I think about him somewhat regularly, even to this day,” said Senior Airman Mason R. Cardounel, 31st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, 56th Helicopter Maintenance Unit electronic warfare journeyman. “I think about what I could have done better; how I could’ve been a better friend and confidant.”
Cardounel knew his best friend since freshman year of high school. They formed a bond over the movie “Black Hawk Down” and their shared dream of joining the military together.
For two best friends, an ordinary day in high school turned into a day that Cardounel would never forget.
“It was towards the end of the school year,” Cardounel said. “I was driving home from school when I got a call from my mom. She asked if I talked to him and I said I talked to him at school.”
Later that day, Cardounel received a phone call that would change his life forever.
There was a stillness in the room as Cardounel recalled that day, his tone somber as he tried to convey his memories into words.
“I asked her what was going on,” said Cardounel. “She said his parents hadn’t heard from him, which I thought was weird, but maybe he walked home from school. Maybe he stopped somewhere, or forgot to tell someone where he was going. I didn’t really think too much of it at the time.”
“A few hours later, no one had heard from him,” said Cardounel. “His parents came home that night, and that’s when they found him.”
The Calendar Year 2017 Defense Suicide Prevention Office Suicide Event Report indicated the suicide-mortality rate for Active Duty in 2017, combined across all Military Services, was 21.9 deaths for every 100,000 people.
The DoD Leader Guide and Postvention Checklist provides information and tools to help individuals gain suicide awareness.
“Learning about suicide, depression and how to support others helped me,” said Cardounel. “I was always the person that held things in, but now I open up and talk about how I feel because it works and makes me feel better.”
People investing their time to build trust is a way to deliberately care for, support, and connect with one another.
“The big thing is trust,” said Cardounel. “That’s the most important thing as far as preventing suicide. When you put your trust in someone else and they see it, you can gain their trust in return.”
Trust begins with conversations, and knowing there are people, organizations and other resources available to help; such as the Airman & Family Readiness Center, the base chapel, Family Advocacy and the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.
“Talking to someone about suicide or depression is not showing weakness,” Cardounel said. “If anything, you’re showing your strength because talking about it is the hard part.”
If you need to reach out to someone please call the numbers below:
(Calling from a commercial line Dial 0434+30+extension (last four)
Airman Family Readiness Center DSN 632-5407
Chapel DSN 632-5211
Command Post DSN 632-3100
Family Advocacy DSN 632-5677
Law Enforcement Desk DSN 632-7200
Mental Health DSN 632-5321
Sexual Assault Response Coordinator DSN 632-7272
Dial 911 for on-base emergencies (0434-30-8911 if calling from a commercial line)
Off Base Emergency
Commercial 112 for Carabinieri, Fire Department and Medical
National Suicide Prevention and Military Crisis Line-Europe DSN 118 or 00800-1273-TALK (8255)
National Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
Military One Source 1-800-342-9647