Many Americans who lived through the September 11th attacks can say their lives changed that day. DCGer Brent Wingfield’s response to 9/11 was to join the military, which put him on a path that would define his entire life.
His 9/11 journey continues in the work he does as a partnership specialist at DCG to ensure Veterans receive the information and resources they need to navigate challenges or get through a crisis in their lives. Brent, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, recently received PR Daily’s Communicators of the Year award for Strategic Thinker.
Boots on the ground
Brent is honoring the memory of his friends and even those he never served with through his work on behalf of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
He channeled his experience as a soldier and Veteran into a plan for reaching Veterans at different points in the crisis spectrum. His job revolves around research and relationship building. First, he has to fully understand crisis — how it happens, when it happens, why it happens, and how to prevent it. Second, to help inform his implementation plan, he interviews prolific media figures; executives at Veterans Service Organizations; and change management, mental health, and suicide prevention experts. Third, he needs to intimately know his audience: the nation’s 19 million unique Veterans and their supporters.
For VA’s mental health and suicide prevention campaigns, Brent pairs his experience and research with his network and finds new ways to reach Veterans where he can make the most difference — before crisis strikes. Through strategic counsel and this upstream approach, Brent connects the dots between Veterans, VA providers, and key/influential organizations and individuals who serve Veterans and their supporters at the grassroots, state, and national levels.
The goal is to help Veterans overcome their own hurdles to recovery by connecting them to VA suicide prevention and mental health resources, campaigns, and initiatives.
VA messaging, content, and outreach priorities remain dynamic, however, and Brent must stay nimble to respond to the ever-evolving needs of both the client and community. He and his team regularly propose new ideas for digital and physical materials, outreach focus areas, and primary/sub audiences for Veteran outreach, and leverage those ideas into meaningful results.
“May my life honor the memory of yours”
When Brent got to Iraq, it didn’t take long for the gravity of the situation to sink in. On his first patrol, his vehicle was blown up. He survived several close calls and near disasters.
Brent Wingfield while on deployment.
Not all his friends were so lucky. Many got hurt, died violently, or killed themselves. His company of less than 130 suffered 12 killed in action, more than half wounded in action, and 12 suicide deaths.
Brent struggled when he left the military, not only with his own memories, but with what his friends went through. He got help through VA, which he says saved his life.
Among Brent’s memento mori is a bracelet for Staff Sergeant Jaime Newman, with Newman’s date of death―9–17–2010―and a message: “May my life honor the memory of yours.”
Brent’s partnership work maximizes the reach, relevance, and impact of VA’s mental health initiatives and has resulted in VA suicide prevention content, materials, and/or a physical presence in almost every state.
For Brent, every day means a chance to honor a Veteran’s memory by finding ways to save a Veteran’s life.
To learn more about Brent’s service, visit VA’s Make the Connection site. For more information about VA’s Veteran suicide prevention resources, visit the following sites: Make the Connection, the Veterans Crisis Line, and VA’s Suicide Prevention Program.
DCGer Brent Wingfield Wins PR Daily’s Communicators of the Year Award for Strategic Thinker was originally published in DCG Life on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.