By Danielle Davis, Bayonet & Saber /
Sgt. David Mensink, an explosive ordnance disposal team leader with the 789th EOD Company, received the Soldier’s Medal Sept. 8 in Derby Auditorium.
“The Soldier’s Medal is awarded to any person of the Armed Forces of the U.S. or a friendly foreign nation who, while serving in any capacity with the Army of the U.S., distinguished him or herself by heroism, not involving an actual conflict with an enemy,” said Staff Sgt. Ty Kazeck, with the 789th EOD Company.
Mensink has been working with the EOD for six years. He received the medal because of actions he took Oct. 11, 2014.
“I was on emergency response and I received a call from the Alabama State Trooper bomb squad asking to identify an item that was lodged in a civilian’s leg. It turned out to be a military ordnance item so we rushed to the hospital to extract the item from his leg,” he explained.
It was later confirmed that the item lodged in the civilian’s leg was a smoke grenade, added Mensink.
During his speech at the ceremony, Mensink chose to shift the focus from his actions on that day in October to an issue that has personally affected him and many others: suicide.
Mensink revealed that he was dealing with past issues and feeling isolated at the time he attempted suicide.
“For months, I sat in my driveway for hours on end with my pistol in my lap,” he said. “I could never bring myself to pull the trigger. The pills were an easier method. It was just take something, lay down and go to sleep.”
Before taking the pills, Mensink revealed that he sent out a “goodbye” text. This text was ultimately responsible for saving his life. Staff Sgt. Kyle Shelton and Sgt. 1st Class Ty Mathews, also with the 789th EOD Company, responded to it and were able to get him the emergency assistance needed.
“They saved my life. They’re the reason I’m still here,” said Mensink.
His speech comes at a time when the military is recognizing National Suicide Prevention month.
“There is an epidemic spreading across, not just the EOD, but the military as a whole, and it claims 22 veterans each day from past and present conflicts,” said Mensink.
Growing up, he would always internalize things. He was never one to come right out and say what was wrong, said Sherre Mensink, Staff Sgt. Mensink’s mother.
“Everyone rushes to help when it’s a physical hurt, but that’s the case with a mental hurt. There’s a certain shame associated with psychological suffering when there shouldn’t be,” she added.
Sherre Mensink said that she was proud of her son’s decision to speak out about suicide prevention.
“I think it’s a good thing he did. There are a lot of people out there who are suicidal and they may see or hear what he said and use that to go get help,” she said.
Mensink hopes that his words will touch others who might be considering taking their own lives, convince them to reach out.
If given the opportunity he would tell others struggling this, “Quit believing the lies that you tell yourself. You’re not alone. There’s a reason you want to reach out to people and then you withdraw, convince yourself that they won’t understand. They will. You just have to set that fear aside and let them know.”
“I’m still coming to terms with the guilt and the shame that comes along with having tried it and failed. Having everyone know where I am now and where I was,” said Mensink.
“My command and my peers have been extremely supportive and they got me the help I needed through the Martin Army Community Hospital intensive outpatient program. They really helped me get through and get to a much better place than I’ve been my entire life,” he added.
View more photos from the ceremony at fortbenningphotos.com.