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NCO's actions save soldier's life after suicide try

Sep. 25, 2012 - 12:02PM   |   Last Updated: Sep. 25, 2012 - 12:02PM  |  
Army Sgt. 1st Class Danny Licciardi and his wife Charlene were recently recognized for saving the life of a soldier who had attempted suicide.
Army Sgt. 1st Class Danny Licciardi and his wife Charlene were recently recognized for saving the life of a soldier who had attempted suicide. ()
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Sgt. 1st Class Danny Licciardi was home on a Saturday afternoon when his phone rang: The military police were on the line.

One of Licciardi's soldiers was missing after making suicidal remarks to a friend back home.

"When they called, I had, right then and there, realized this isn't a joke because the MPs are calling me," said Licciardi, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the religious support office at U.S. Army Garrison Kaiserslautern, Germany. "I started to call the soldier, and the soldier didn't answer the phone."

Licciardi and his wife, Charlene, a former NCO, jumped into their car and began to drive to the soldier's house.

After repeatedly calling the soldier's cellphone, Licciardi finally got through on the 15th or 16th try.

"I heard breathing and I was yelling, ‘Pick up the phone, don't hang up,'" he said.

By then, the soldier, who had taken 115 pills, was barely conscious and had slurred speech.

"I just kept asking questions," Licciardi said. "I kept saying, ‘Don't hang up. Stay awake.'"

An hour earlier, the soldier had parked in an isolated area before taking the pills. The soldier could not tell Licciardi where the car was parked, except that it was on a dirt road in an area near where the soldier used to live.

"There's about 17 or 18 dirt roads between [the soldier's] old and current house," Licciardi said.

Licciardi and his wife, who stayed in contact with the soldier and the MPs as they drove, searched every dirt road. At the last one Licciardi noticed the soldier's car "sticking out a little."

Licciardi said he ran to the car and got the soldier out, then his wife kept talking to keep the soldier awake while Licciardi ran to the street to flag down MPs.

Licciardi and his wife saved the soldier's life.

The doctor concluded that if the soldier had gone to sleep, the result would have been fatal, said Licciardi, who spent two days in the intensive-care unit with his soldier.

As he and his wife raced through town trying to find the soldier, Licciardi said all he kept thinking was, "Don't let this soldier down on your watch."

"I knew if I would have panicked, the soldier would have panicked more or hung up on me," he said, crediting the suicide prevention training he has received during his 13 years in the Army.

Licciardi, who had brought this soldier to seek behavioral health care three weeks before the suicide attempt, said he is glad he and his wife were able to help. He also urged his fellow NCOs and soldiers to talk to their soldiers and get to know them.

"You have to talk to them and get them to open up to you and tell you what's going on in their life. Instead of just giving them that once-a-month counseling statement, you need to always talk to them and mentor them."

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