Wing Commander Calls for Kindness After Shaw Airman’s Suicide

Suicide prevention pins are displayed during a sky lantern vigil on Biloxi Beach, Miss., on Sept. 27, 2018. Air Force photo by Kemberly Groue.

The commander of the 20th Fighter Wing at Shaw AFB, S.C., is calling for kindness and feedback after a local airman died by suicide Aug. 13.

“Here we are again—I can’t believe it. We lost another one of our own,” Col. Derek O’Malley said in a video posted Aug. 14 on the wing’s Facebook page.

The airman’s death comes about two weeks after Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein ordered wing commanders to pick a day to halt operations and focus on the growing issue of suicide.

In the video, O’Malley said he hopes people “feel comfortable speaking up” about what Shaw and the wider Air Force can do differently to help airmen.

“We are not going to solve this by talking. Those words have to translate into action,” O’Malley said. “There is no one thing we can do to solve this, but there are thousands of things we can do that can help.”

Showing kindness to other airmen at Shaw “is at least one small step toward who I think we can become,” he added.

Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth Wright said 79 airmen had died by suicide in 2019 as of the beginning of August, a much higher rate than in previous years.

“Let’s take a moment and breathe and spend a little time on our airmen and their resiliency, and make sure we’re not missing anything when it comes to suicide and suicide awareness,” Wright told Air Force Magazine.

The Veterans Crisis Hotline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for veterans and service members who need help. Call 800-273-8255 and press 1, text 838255, or visit