Future Soldier's Selfless Service Prevents Suicide
By Fonda Bock, USAREC, Public Affairs Office
Photos by Pat Adelmann
There was just something about the young man standing at the edge of an overpass staring down onto a busy highway March 14 that made 18-year old Future Soldier Brianna Biesterveld feel uneasy.
Wearing a hooded sweatshirt and jeans, his shoulders slumped, he was alone and standing perilously close to the edge of the I-94 overpass that connects Wisconsin and Minnesota, staring down at Highway 95.
Headed to class that day at the University of Wisconsin in River Falls, Biesterveld got a strong urge to turn around after driving past him.
“I can’t explain it, but it just felt wrong, like he shouldn’t be there,” said Biesterveld. “There was just something about how he was standing there all by himself, not looking around at all, just straight down at traffic that kind of said to me he was going to jump. It hit me like a rock.”
The Future Soldier parked her car several feet away from the young man and slowly approached him with caution.
“I asked him if he was okay and if he needed help, and he said he was thinking about jumping. When I asked him why, he told me it was none of my concern. I told him that even though I didn't know him I could try to help him. He said he didn't want me to see him hit the ground and I told him it wasn't a good idea. I asked him if there was anything I could do or anyone he could call and he said no.”
Biesterveld said a few minutes later another woman stopped to help and together the two of them coaxed the man off the bridge. The police and sheriff departments arrived shortly after a call was made to 911.
St. Croix County, Wis., Sheriff John Shilts talked with the 19-year old National Guardsman who said he was going to jump. Though he can't talk about the case, Shilts credits Biesterveld with preventing a suicide. “It is my opinion she was instrumental in saving this individual’s life,” he said.
Sgt. Jacob Thompson, Hudson Wis., Recruiting Center is Biesterveld’s recruiter.
“One of her friends told recruiters what she’d done and I was pretty impressed,” said Thompson. "Suicides in the army are a big deal and she went above and beyond what most people would do in reaching out to that young man. Part of what we teach in Future Soldier training is the Army Values and she already has a pretty outstanding moral compass. Nine out of 10 people today wouldn’t have stopped and I think it speaks volumes about who she is. I’m really proud to be her recruiter.”
Biesterveld was recognized for her actions during Milwaukee Battalion’s Annual Training Conference April 24, at Fort McCoy, where she was presented with a certificate of achievement and a plaque from the battalion, and a certification of appreciation and coin from 3rd Brigade.
Biesterveld said she joined the Army because the idea of serving her country and protecting others gives her a sense of purpose.
“I want to become a leader in the Army and be the person who can help people in need. I know that the army can provide me with this experience and the necessary building blocks to reach to that goal,” said Biesterveld.