How a Marine's social challenge helps respond to the Admiral tragedy

Phil Briggs
December 04, 2018 - 12:27 pm

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Wesley Timm

The recent news of Vice Adm. Scott Stearney’s apparent suicide came as a surprise to the entire military community.

Though condolences from the Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. John Richardson, may express how deeply connected our military family is, there remains a concern that stories of suicide create a ripple effect among active duty and veterans alike.

“Many of my patients both veteran and civilian have had these feelings,” explained Dr. Shauna Springer, Suicide Prevention Senior Advisor at Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS). “It takes a different kind of courage to ask for help, but it is critical to flush out and reckon with thoughts and feelings that lead to this heartbreaking outcome.”

Recently retired Marine Corps Master Sergeant Rumaldo Parra is also all too familiar with suicide's ripple effect.  

Just over a month ago, his phone rang and Parra learned that one of his fellow Marines had taken his own life.  As feelings of anger and frustration swelled, this Marine leader instinctively knew something had to be done -- and the #Love social media challenge was born.

“Obviously all the recent negative news had been upsetting ... but after the news of this suicide, and how he left two kids behind, I was getting a lot of text messages from my Marines. One Marine texted me and said he was having a really hard time. He basically said, ‘I don’t understand it.  I’m not able to accept any of them...but especially not this one’.”

With mixed emotions, Parra picked up his phone and recorded a video message that is now inspiring Marines and fellow veterans to concentrate on love. “I wanted something to be impactful,” explained Parra.  “A lot of emotion, a lot of reflection has come out of these last few days…and it literally didn’t take more than two minutes to think of a challenge where we ask everyone to talk about their love: for the country, love for each other and love of self.”

Here are some of Parra’s thoughts on each part of the challenge:  

  • Love for Country - “We we wear this great uniform to be able to protect this great country of ours, our family and children. We all joined for different reasons, but in the end, we all want to be part of something bigger than ourselves.”
  • Love for Each Other - “Let us never forget to honor and remember all the families of the fallen that never came home.  Always keep ‘em in your thoughts and prayers, and when you're able to take the opportunity, give ‘em a hug … And let’s remember that we will always be here for each other.”
  • Love for Self -  “We must be better friends to ourseleves. We must take better care of ourselves in all aspects of our health.  And let us remember that we are surrounded by a tribe of hundreds of thousands of brothers and sisters all around the world that love us.”

After Parra ended the recording, he tagged some of his fellow war fighters, clicked share and started a Facebook journey that would soon go viral.

Now, less than 72 hours later, the video has almost three thousand views and its message of love is making an impact.

“One of my buddies pointed out that there is a common denominator in all the questions, and that’s love,” explained Parra. “I was glad he read between the lines and noticed that. Because the fact of the matter is, I wanted them to hear their own message. I wanted them to remind themselves why we love this country, why we love each other and why they need to love themselves.”

And as each veteran steps before their camera and defines how they love their country, Parra’s goal is being accomplished.

“The more that it gets out, the better people will be,” Para said. “Maybe some won’t do a video, but they will be in their living room thinking, and that’s really what we’re trying to do. Let as many veterans know they are not alone.”

To join the community of veterans taking the #Love challenge simply post a video on Facebook using the following hashtags: #LoveForCountry, #LoveForEachOther and #LoveForSelf.

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