Spartan Pledge: The oath that can defeat suicide

Phil Briggs
September 17, 2018 - 12:15 am

The Spartan Pledge

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At the height of ancient Greek power, the Spartans became one of the most feared military forces in the world.

Today, Spartan power is being channeled into a few powerful sentences.  When spoken, these words become more than just a promise- they create a community of warfighters ready to crush a new enemy- Suicide.

The Spartan Pledge

Created by Army combat veteran, Radio Show Host and Author, Boone Cutler, he calls the pledge a battle plan. "It’s what to do, when you don’t know what to do.  It’s a mission because a warfighter without a mission is a dead warfighter.  But one with a mission is a deadly warfighter. But, it's also a promise to say no matter how bad things get, you will reach out."

Since it was first introduced to the veteran community, the oath has swept across social media and vets have taken the pledge at everything from backyard-get-togethers to concerts to virtual gatherings via YouTube and Skype.  However, nothing shows the real success of this anti-suicide pact, better than the vets who have taken it. 

“It was one of the worst times of my life ... it left me with memories I could never get rid of,” said David Sousa, as he described his 2003 deployment to Abu Gharib.  “Because of the stuff that happens when you’re at war, and the things that you do, you’re never the same person when you come back,” Sousa explained.

“I was doing pretty good at coping with life until I went back to Afghanistan … and that’s when it all started to unwind,” Sousa said. 

After returning home, he described a hell few can truly understand, “I was depressed, I became more and more anxious by the day … I saw things I can’t even talk about, over and over again.  I couldn’t take it.  A couple times I had the notion of committing suicide, and then there was the time I actually tried.  I had a gun, and let’s just say I …" He trails off. 

“What kinda changed my life was when my friend killed himself,” Sousa recalled. “I was like damn, it was so easy for him to commit suicide … the pain for him is gone … but outside of that, I saw how suicide didn’t help the people around him, it just made it worse. That’s when I decided to get help.”

His help came in the form of a friendship with a World War II vet, who led him to join the VFW (Ironically, where he works now as the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Nevada Department Commander) and a chance meeting with a fellow combat vet, promoting a book at a local National Guard event- Boone Cutler.  

He stayed in touch with Cutler after their initial meeting. He watched the videos on his Facebook page, and one day was introduced to the pledge.  “It hit home. It drives you and makes you remember that you have a purpose in life. By sharing it with others, I found an incredible camaraderie with others who were sharing it ... it brought the warfighter community back together for me.”

Spartan Pledge author Boone Cutler and David Sousa take the pledge with the Spartan sword, forged from steel from the World Trade Centers on 9/11.

As Sousa reflected on his oath, to not take his own life, he found himself on a mission bigger than himself. ”More than an oath to not kill myself today, if I know that you’re in distress, I’m going to go out there and find you.  The pledge creates an awareness in your mind that there are people who I can go and help.”

And veterans finding veterans is exactly how the Spartan Pledge found Army combat veteran, Tony Alvarado. 

Alvarado found the pledge after he transitioned from Army combat in Bosnia, to a life of  PTSD, and self-medication.  "We all treat our pain differently, and mine was booze and brawls.  But at the time it seemed better than the meds that the VA gave me," Alvarado said. He described a life of feeling nothing, while he was taking VA prescribed anti-anxiety and anti-depression meds, "That numb feeling was horrible because you felt like nothing matters at all. It drove me to attempt suicide ... and lucky for me, I failed," Alvarado explained. He described how one night, after not taking any phone calls, a friend felt so compelled to talk with him that they entered his home through a side door. They found Alvarado on the floor. "With the amount of pain medication I had taken along with alcohol I should have been dead," Alvarado confessed. 

As Alvarado traveled the road to recovery, he explained how he found comfort in veteran social media groups, "I was really pissed off ... and I found it's easier bouncing things off other people who've shared the same experiences."  One of those groups led him to Boone Cutler.  "I liked his videos, and what he had to say.  And when I heard about the Spartan Pledge it clicked with me .. as veterans we've taken a lot of oaths, and tend to take them seriously.  So for me it was more than just, 'hey let's knock this out real quick,' ... as vets this pledge stays with us, it becomes a part of you," Alvarado said.  

       

And as the Spartan Pledge community grew, so did the impact.  "I've literally seen this pledge change lives," explained Alvarado. “We’ve seen vets post on Facebook that they’re on the edge and thinking about doing something stupid, and instantly guys in the area start sending out messages, and phone calls, trying to get a hold of them.  There have been two guys I know wanted to kill themselves, and I was able to get on the phone with them … and then with law enforcement they were able to track them down just knowing their name and the city.  It’s crazy how well law enforcement is able to find them and get them help.  And the only reason I knew them, is from the Facebook groups ... groups where we also shared the pledge.”

When asked if he has plans for the Spartan Pledge in the future Boone smiled and replied, “I’m just the author, I’m not doing anything with it.  It belongs to you now, it belongs to the warfighter community.  So the question becomes, what are you going to with it?”

Join the Spartan Pledge community on Facebook here

If you’re a Veteran in crisis or concerned about one, there are helpful, qualified VA responders standing by to help 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. VA Crisis Line call 1-800-273-8255 and press 1.