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Maine Guardsman Conquers Mountain Of Stress

By Senior Airman Jameel S. Moses
National Guard Bureau

Army Col. Jack Mosher, the deputy chief of staff of operations for the Maine National Guard, spoke at the Army National Guard Readiness Center recently about suicide prevention. He recounted the suicide of a friend and the run he did to the top of Mount Washington in New Hampshire to help him deal with it. Photo courtesy of the Maine National Guard.

ARLINGTON, Va., (9/25/09) -- The load carried by Army Col. Jack Mosher on his run to the top of Mount Washington was much more than just the stone on his back.

Mosher, the deputy chief of staff of operations for the Maine National Guard, was also carrying the stress of returning from a deployment, a recent divorce making him a single father of two, living in his parents' basement, finishing the U.S. Army War College and a second master's degree.

But perhaps the heaviest load he carried up the New Hampshire mountain was the suicide of his best friend - something that still causes anger to swell up in Mosher's chest, he said.

"It's not sadness or grief," said Mosher. "It's anger. It's frustration. It's rage."

During a recent presentation here at the Army National Guard Readiness Center, Mosher described suicide as a specter that makes death a viable option when the stress of life becomes too much to bear.

"It skulks in the darkness," he said. "Watching and waiting for the opportunity during the most desperate moments in our lives to creep forward and soothe our broken heads and our broken hearts.

"In a voice smooth as smoke the specter speaks: 'Let me bring you peace, let me ease your pain.'"

His best friend heard that voice. "All he wanted was one thing - for the pain to stop," said Mosher.

Mosher knew that pain all too well, because he was beginning to feel it too, he said.

To deal with the pain, he looked for spiritual guidance from his church. He wanted to become "strong again."

After a period of time, Mosher said he developed a new sense of normalcy, but he still had the rage and emotions buried in his chest. Mosher began to purge all of the things that he had built up inside as he made the 7.6-mile climb up the 6,288-foot mountain in June at this year's Mount Washington Road Race.

"It wasn't a physical battle," he said. "It was emotional."

He served as a living metaphor for resiliency. "Running to the top of that mountain carrying my load was a lot like our Soldiers," Mosher said. "I was surrounded by other runners, all dealing with the pain of the climb. We had a commonality."

"You almost have to develop tunnel vision," he said. "You have to focus on the event. As you climb that mountain and round each turn, you have to keep going."

"As I got closer to the top and broke through the clouds of that rainy day, the sun was shining," Mosher said. "The blanket of clouds was below me now, and it was a completely different view."

Mosher stood in the sunshine after completing his ascent and dropped his pack with the stone etched with the word, "Resilience," to the ground.

His days of carrying that heavy load were done.

Mosher said, quoting Dylan Thomas' famous poem, "Do not go gentle into that good night, old age should burn and rave at close of day; rage, rage against the dying of the light."

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