Story by Erik Warren
FORT HOOD, Texas – A medic assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 1st Cavalry Division Artillery passed a truck pulled over on a highway overpass four miles south of here.
It was almost midnight, and the pickup did not have on its hazard lights. The driver exited the vehicle and approached the ledge of the overpass. Something about this scene seemed odd to him.
It was at this time, he would ultimately intervene and save a fellow trooper’s life.
Spc. Oscar Bonilla has a history of going out of his way to help others. He was returning from Austin where he went to help a high school friend whose husband was hospitalized when he decided to turn around and help the motorist, as he often would.
“My mom always stopped to help people, so it was instilled in me as a little kid,” said Bonilla. “She always helped others. She often said she wished that someone would have helped her when she was new to the United States. The cars usually have ran out of gas, or something like that. I’ll give people a ride or gas money.”
Bonilla stepped out of his car to help the man who was now standing at the railing of the overpass looking out into the distance.
He asked the motorist if he was OK. After receiving a stern “Go away,” the thought that the motorist may be attempting suicide suddenly crossed Bonilla’s mind.
“I walked towards him and asked again, ‘Are you sure you’re OK man?’ Then he told me, ‘I want to end it all,’” Bonilla recalled. “I immediately got between him and the railing.”
He noticed the individual’s Army-like haircut, and realized it was likely a battle buddy in need.
He said he didn’t think he was following any planned steps concerning any suicide prevention training he received, but he did ask, care and escort the motorist, which current Army doctrine deems the foundation of suicide prevention.
After learning of the Soldier’s plans to end his own life, Bonilla stayed with him and listened to his issues. They went to a nearby restaurant to continue talking.
Bonilla then suggested options that would help the Soldier receive more specific assistance. The Soldier chose to contact someone he could trust to pick him up; he contacted his NCO.
“I commend the Soldier [Bonilla] for his actions,” said Dr. Timothy Ingram, clinical psychologist and supervisor at the Soldier Behavioral Health Clinic. “Fundamentally, he did the right things by intervening, talking to the person and getting in contact with his leadership so he can receive trained help. People notice when someone shows concern to them in these situations and it can be very helpful.”
Bonilla has personal experience with suicidal thoughts. Not long ago, he was going through a rough spot in his life and contemplated suicide.
“I was going through some issues last year and I thought maybe it would be better if I just ended it all,” said Bonilla.
He said he got through it because he didn’t want to seem weak in front of his enemies and didn’t want to implement a permanent solution for a temporary problem. He talked to a behavioral health specialist and got help.
Armed with genuine concern, training, and a strive to live the Army Values, Bonilla was able to preserve the a member of the Army fighting force, and more importantly, a battle buddy.