Martinsburg VA employees assist Veteran in distress

Assured Veteran he was not alone


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Members of the Martinsburg VA Medical Center Incident Command Team were able to assist a Veteran in a time of need.

In early April, the Public Affairs Office received a Facebook message with pictures of a Veteran harming himself. The Veteran continued to send concerning messages stating he wanted to commit suicide.

Right away, two members of the public affairs office and two members of the Incident Command Team went into action. They contacted the Suicide Prevention Coordinator (SPC) to assist in initiating a welfare check.

The Veteran continued to send messages through Facebook. Consequently, the four employees continued to engage the Veteran through Messenger with messages of encouragement that he was not alone and that they were there to help. At the same time, they were working to call the Veteran directly on his cell phone.

Wanted to talk to his estranged family

Locating the Veteran was not an easy task. They had a name, but two locations listed as his home. There was also not a reliable next of kin or family member contact number. Within 30 minutes of notifying the SPC, the local sheriff’s department was at the Veteran’s door.

After reviewing the photos the Veteran sent, the public affairs office let the sheriff’s department know that the Veteran had barricaded himself in his home.

The VA employees spoke with the negotiator to relay communication and demands that the Veteran was asking for, including talking to his estranged family. Six and half hours later, the Veteran surrendered and was taken to the local hospital for evaluation. The medical center staff admitted him to the facility for care.

This is a prime example that no matter the circumstances or what work they are engaged in, VA employees are always there to assist in protecting the health and wellbeing of our Veterans.

Pictured above (left to right) are Tracy L. Todd, Nurse Manager; Lauren Winebrenner, Deputy Public Affairs Officer; Amanda Bock, Risk Manager; and Sarah M. Tolstyka, Public Affairs Officer.


Sarah M. Tolstyka is a public affairs officer for the Martinsburg VA Medical Center.

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