By Spc. Andrew Ingram
1st Armored Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs Office, 4th Infantry Division
CAMP BUEHRING, Kuwait — Soldiers donned bright colors and laughed their way through a Technicolor five-kilometer event organized to celebrate life and raise suicide awareness during the Sara’s Smile Neon Splash Dash at Camp Buehring, Kuwait, Sept. 28.
In the days leading up to the run, Sgt. 1st Class Robert Britt, Army recruiter for the Mississippi National Guard and co-founder of the Sara’s Smile Foundation, spoke to Soldiers of 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, about his daughter’s suicide, the importance of asking for help, and his commitment to bring something positive out of his Family’s pain.
“I went into a major depression after losing my child to suicide,” Britt said. “Once I came out of my depression, I realized I didn’t want Sara to die off in vain. I wanted to use our story to help educate people, promote awareness and help save lives.”
Although Soldiers undergo periodic suicide prevention training, Britt’s personal experience lends weight to his seminars.
“What sets my brief apart is that I lived though it, my children lived though it and Sara’s mother lived through it,” he said. “People listen when they know you have personally dealt with something. Soldiers have told me that my story makes an impact because it’s from the heart. My story has given some the courage to seek help, and assisted others to cope with the loss of a buddy or a loved one.”
Volunteers with the USO arranged the more than 1,500 participants into heats. When the sun dipped below the horizon, leaving the desert camp in darkness, the splash dash began.
“Raider” Brigade Soldiers, volunteers and USO employees spent months making the event as unique, interesting and exciting as possible, said Tiffany Banks, director of the Camp Buehring USO.
“1st ABCT, 4th Inf. Div., has been pretty fantastic as we’ve organized this event,” said Banks. “We’ve all worked together to make it happen. Everyone who has been involved, from our staff to our volunteers, worked very hard and I just want to say ‘thank you everyone, you are all amazing.’”
Different obstacles were spread throughout the course. Runners slid down a fire-hose-fed waterslide, slogged through ankle-deep water and got splashed with glow-in-the-dark acrylic paint by volunteers staggered across the route.
“All the paint made the whole thing a lot more exciting than your average Army run,” said Pfc. Nicholas Rose, fire support specialist, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st ABCT. “Personally, though, the slide was my favorite part.”
Despite the light tone and manic energy of the splash dash, Rose said he appreciated the message behind the madness.
“I think it helped people realize that this isn’t a topic they should be afraid to talk about,” he said. “Hopefully this event will give somebody the push they need to get help.”
A barbecue followed the run, where Soldiers ate, danced, took pictures of themselves covered in paint, and celebrated life.