Soldier shares story of personal loss, triumph at Female Network

By 4IBCT PAO Scott C Lamberson | 4IBCT | November 01, 2013

During a Sept. 27 Fort Riley Female Network meeting, a guest speaker from the "Dragon" Brigade spoke about how she used friendships, professional colleagues and networking to cope with stress and personal loss.

Maj. Tammy Fanniel, human resource officer, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, told the audience about her brother's suicide, coming just one week after his failed suicide attempt.

"I answered the phone, and my father said, 'Tammy, he did it this time.' I could hear the barely contained emotional turmoil in my father's voice," Fanniel said.

At the time of his suicide, Fanniel was in the eighth month of a high-risk pregnancy. After being medically cleared to fly, she was on a flight to her Family's home in Germany.

"I couldn't vent," she said. "I had to maintain my health for the sake of my unborn child and support my parents."

Three months after her brothers' suicide, Fanniel was told her uncle was having suicidal ideations, and her aunt had committed suicide three days prior to Fanniel's birth.

"In my mind, I thought, when am I going to go off the deep end," she said.

Prior to her brothers' suicide, Fanniel's parents' relationship was deteriorating. Soon after laying their son to rest, her parents split up. It was at this time, Fanniel said she discovered her younger sister was self-mutilating.

Two weeks prior to boarding a plane to deploy to Afghanistan, Fanniel received word her mother was receiving a medical treatment very similar to chemotherapy. As she left for Afghanistan carrying all of this stress, she received notice that while deployed, she would serve as the casualty officer for Regional Command East.

"So there I was, probably not in the greatest state of mind to begin with, living and breathing death and severe injuries on a daily basis," Fanniel said.

Fanniel told the group that spiritually, she was broken, professionally she was drowning, but personally she was hanging in there.

Fortunately, she had an extremely strong support network: friends and relationships she made throughout the course of her life and held onto through the years.

"Friends for life," she said. "Good friends with the same goals, morals and values."

As Fanniel addressed the group of females attending the networking meeting, she told them briefly about each one of her close friends and explained their experiences, attributes and their relationship. She explained how she connected so deeply with each one of her friends.

With the guidance and support of her long-time friends and the new support networks she had built while deployed, Fanniel said she was able rebound from all her stressors, adversity and rebuild the spiritual and professional pillars of her life.

Along the way, she completed her doctorate degree, something which she was working on throughout the stressful times in her life.

As she concluded her speech, Fanniel told audience members to look to their left and right.

"This is what the Fort Riley Female Network is about," she said. "You may be surprised by the varying relationships you can build professionally and personally."

Fanniel said she recommends all females Soldiers or spouses attend the network because "it's a great way to make personal and professional connections across varying ranks, cultures, ages and ethnic groups."