Soldiers and leaders from Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 13th Expeditionary Sustainment Command, 1st Medical Brigade and community members, various units and organizations across Fort Hood participated in a domestic violence awareness event at Fort Hood Stadium Oct. 17.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and thanks to the efforts of the 13th ESC Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention representatives and the Army Community Service’s Family Advocacy office, the event was organized to emphasize that domestic violence will not be tolerated in the Army.
“Domestic violence diminishes our ranks, which in turn weakens the force,” Brig. Gen. Darren Werner, 13th ESC commander and director of sustainment for III Corps, said. “It reduces our readiness, diminishes our lethality and impacts our ability to fight and win for our nation. It also harms the very ones that you should love and protect the most.”
Those in attendance donned purple clothing or ribbons, which honored those affected by domestic abuse. The color purple is a symbol of peace, courage, survival, honor and dedication to ending domestic violence.
Although the second annual event was highlighted by the Purple Ribbon Relay and one-mile run or walk, it also showed the resources available to help Soldiers and families develop life skills, maintain positive relationships and encourage help-seeking behaviors.
Representatives from Family Advocacy, ACS, Killeen-Heights Veteran Center, the Military and Family Life Counseling Program, Families in Crisis, Exceptional Family Member Program and Teach Them to Love Outreach Ministries were all in attendance to offer their support, and Werner expressed how these programs could assist Soldiers and families.
“If you’re personally struggling with issues that could lead to domestic violence in your home, use the resources that the Army has for you,” Werner said. “Talk with your chaplain, the MFLC (military family life chaplain) or an ACS counselor. Seek help before you harm the ones you love, and receive the assistance you need.”
Sgt. 1st Class Erikewanna Branch, 13th ESC SHARP representative, wanted to make sure those in attendance walked away feeling empowered.
“Everyone has a voice and shouldn’t be silenced,” Branch said. “There are agencies out there that want to help and they shouldn’t be afraid to step forward.”
Don Nicholas, district field representative for Texas Congressman Roger Williams, participated in the relay. As a 31-year Army veteran and someone who has been involved with a Central Texas domestic violence task force for the last eight years, being in the event was important for him and his team.
“We work to ensure law enforcement and social workers have the right tools and guidance to help take care of families affected by domestic violence,” Nicholas said.
The event also offered a self-defense class, given by instructor Erica Willis. Willis teaches self-defense and kinesiology at Central Texas College, and cautioned the crowd to remain vigilant.
“You always have to be observant,” Willis explained. “Listen to your gut instinct and just be aware.”
Spc. Kay Hosford, 1st Med. Bde., was the guest speaker for the event and shared her own experiences with domestic violence. As Hosford finished addressing the crowd, she urged those in attendance to make a difference.
“I stand here today as a mother, a survivor and an advocate for domestic violence prevention,” Hosford said. “Putting your hands on someone out of anger is not the answer and it only gets worse if you don’t change it. If you are here today and identify as a victim, please reach out to a loved one, a friend or any of the resources available today.”