This US Army Soldier’s Story Shows What Real Military Leadership Looks Like
It was five in the morning on Mother’s Day 2012, when Sgt. Richard Sloan got a call from his wife.
A member of the Army’s Golden Knights Tandem Parachute Team, Sloan was in Hampton, Va., For an air show. He had been up early to go for a run before starting his day when his wife Denise, who was pregnant with their second child at the time in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, called him. He remembers seeing his team leader in the hallway asking if Sloan wanted to come run with him, but Sloan could tell his wife was upset. Something was wrong.
He soon realized that his wife, who he had been with since the age of 16, was having a miscarriage.
In the Golden Knights shed in North Carolina in October, Sloan – now a First Class Sergeant with over 6,000 jumps to his name – recently spoke with Task & Purpose about the tragic loss of their difficult time second baby. that he and his wife lived. thereafter, and the unwavering support he felt from his team and leaders. He said his team leader, who had his own experience with pregnancy complications, told Sloan to call him when he was ready to return.
It made all the difference, Sloan said.
Although this happened in 2012, years before the military’s “People First” initiative really took hold and became a message that army chiefs have been pushing relentlessly for. months is a clear example of what it really looks like in practice: allowing a soldier to really put their family first when they need it most. Support them instead of humiliating them. Not making them choose between being there for their family in the middle of a tragedy or being at PT in the morning.
It is not entirely typical to hear a serviceman talk about the way the army checked in their wedding. If anything, it’s usually the opposite. But Sloan, who enlisted in 2003 as an information systems analyst and joined the Golden Knights in 2010, is adamant the military did.
“I will never forget it,” Sloan said of the support he received. “I always feel like I’m still trying to give back to that unity that gave me my marriage.”
‘Call me when you’re ready’
When Sloan realized that day in 2012 what was going on at his home – that Denise was rushing to the emergency room at Fort Bragg, North Carolina – he told his team leader, Sgt. 1st Class John Dallas (JD) Berentis.
“I don’t think a lot of men understand how many pregnancies can end in miscarriage,” Sloan said. But Berentis did. So he got the rest of the team together, called their pilots, and “within 25 to 30 minutes we were on the plane and off to Fort Bragg,” Sloan said.
It’s not an easy thing to coordinate, especially after an air show – there are “a lot of things… they have to do again” after an air show, and “certain block times that you have to take off”. At the time, Sloan had only been with the Golden Knights for 20 months. But JD and another team leader, Sgt. 1st Class Chris Acevedo, “jumped through hoops” to get him home.
It was about an hour’s flight back to Fort Bragg, and before they landed, Sloan recalled Berentis telling him to gather his things and “do as you were told.” The second they landed, Sloan saw another teammate driving a van to the plane. Within minutes, Sloan was off the plane and in the van as that same teammate drove him straight to Womack Army Medical Center, the Fort Bragg hospital where his wife was being treated.
When she arrived, Denise was still in the emergency room being assessed. She “had a fairly severe bleeding” and was taken for surgery. As Sloan sat and waited, nurses came out to tell him that they were having “really tough times with Denise” and reported that his heart had stopped twice during the operation, he said. declared.
All the while, as Sloan sat and waited for more information on his wife’s condition, a few of his teammates sat down with him. When they found out that his wife was okay and was out of surgery, “my boss said ‘Hey, you call me when you’re ready.'”
Sloan did not return to work for 35 days, and even after that he was able to care for his daughter while his wife recovered and “went to a few shows with painted fingernails,” helping his wife through a crisis. of depression. The mental health of a spouse is usually not brought up, Sloan said, but he found that his leadership does. They asked how Denise was doing, and when he answered that she was healing well, they gently pushed more: “No, no, no, how is she Make, Rich? ”They would ask.
Over time, the burden of the tragedy they experienced became easier to bear; their family began to heal and about three years after losing their second child, the Sloans welcomed a baby boy named Reese.
“They saved our marriage,” Sloan said of his team. “Because I think if it was in a lot of places and jobs and you weren’t home the whole time, it would’ve been catastrophic, mentally. And my daughter would also have said, “What’s going on? She didn’t really understand this.
And the point is, while Sloan enjoys serving in the military and as a Golden Knight, full-time military service is only part of his life. Ultimately, he said, that career is temporary – but his marriage is not, and thanks to the leaders who were in his life at the time, he was able to be there for his wife when she needed him the most. .
“The military will only be around for so long in your life when you’re full time, 20, 25, maybe 30 if you’re lucky,” he said. “And one day your kids are going to leave home and it’s you and your spouse. And if you don’t have that teammate you’re going to lose quite a bit of life, I think.