EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

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November 11, 2012

Saving a life on the homefront

Bradford soldier talks woman off bridge using her military training

HAVERHILL — As part of her training in the Army, Eileen Boyle learned how to counsel suicidal soldiers, how to calm them and even talk them off a ledge – literally. So when she was driving over the Comeau Bridge at the western end of downtown recently and saw a woman who looked like she was going to jump, Boyle knew just what to do.

Just hours earlier she’d taught soldiers how to react if a fellow soldier was threatening to kill themselves, but she never imagined her training would be put into action that same day.

“I thought it might be possible to encounter this in the Army, but not out in public and certainly not that night,” Boyle said.

She stopped her car and walked up to the woman, who was sitting on the rail that separates the bridge’s pedestrian walkway from the water below. Boyle talked to the woman gently, using her Army training, and was able to convince her to give up the suicide attempt.

“Her feet were dangling over the edge and she was wobbling,” Boyle said. “I told her, ‘Ma’am, what are doing, and please come off that bridge.’ She said, ‘I want to die, I want to die.’”

On this Veterans Day weekend, the community is celebrating people like Boyle who extend their influence beyond the military and into society, whether they are still actively serving or not.

It’s a different kind of Veterans Day story, one that shows how the commitment of a military member can save lives not just on the battlefield, or on a military base, but closer to home.

Boyle, 41, a sergeant in the National Guard, says suicide in the military is a significant problem and that in an effort to save lives, soldiers receive one eight-hour block of suicide watch/prevention training each year. Boyle attended the ACE class and now assists in teaching it at the Worcester Armory, where she was returning from that day as a member of the 1166 Transportation Company. When she isn’t driving trucks for the Army, she’s drives a big rig and delivers truck trailers to customers of CJ&J Leasing in Haverhill.

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