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Overcoming obstacles: A first sergeant’s struggle to seek help

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Cierra Presentado
  • 459th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. — “I felt alone. I cared about nothing, withdrew from all, convincing myself nobody wanted me around and that I was just in the way. Maybe everyone would be better off without me. I was in pain.”

Senior Master Sgt. Michael Tesoriero had many negative thoughts running through his mind as he walked the aisles of a craft store on Veterans Day last year. It wasn’t until he felt his hands and wrists hurting that he realized he had both hands interlocked and was pulling so hard he started crying. He rushed out of the store to face what would be one of the hardest days of his life.

“Was it my deployments so close together, which I put my heart and soul into my squadrons, my girlfriend breaking up with me when I told her I was deploying, or a combination of it all?” he said. “My biggest fear from my last deployment was not an enemy, but coming home; I had no place to go and nobody to go to. Next were the thoughts that maybe everyone would be better off without me. I was in pain.”

Throughout his 31-year career in the Air Force Reserve, Tesoriero, was the go to guy for all Airmen. As a first sergeant. his passion was to help his people at his home base as well as in deployed locations, even if it meant neglecting his own needs at times. He always made sure to make his Airmen’s life as good as possible. What he was not expecting was for his life to take a downward spiral into depression where he would contemplate the value of his life.

“For months I didn’t feel like myself, I felt lost and I wasn’t thinking clearly,” he said. “I would force myself to go be with people, but in the back of my mind, I felt that they didn’t really want me there. I distanced myself from everyone, and felt no desire to be anywhere except home alone. I began to realize I was having some major issues. It took a lot for me to realize that maybe I do need help.”

When he realized he was having major issues that he could not handle on his own, he finally accepted three things: call the command chief and offer his diamond, he can’t fight his depression alone, and that he needed to reach out and get help.

“I was advised to call Military One Source to get counseling,” he said. “They are helping me, and I am now seeing things in a different way. I am taking care of myself again and moving in the right direction. I still have my diamond, and will try to help others who are also going through the same things.”

Tesoriero is one of many Airmen who go through depression. Last year the Air Force lost 136 members to suicide. Tesoriero wants Airmen to know that it is ok to reach out for help.

“There’s a stigma and I’ve known about it for years,” he said. “I know plenty of people that have PTSD and depression but no one wants to say it, everyone is scared.  I want people to know the help is there. Don’t go through it alone. Don’t suffer in silence. Reach out.”

Whether is it your peer, supervisor, first sergeant or commander, it is important to seek help.

“It took a lot of courage for SMSgt Tesoriero to seek help,” said Chief Master Sgt. Jose Velez, 459th Air Refueling Wing Command Chief. “When we spoke recently about him sharing his story on our 459 ARW Facebook page. He said ‘If I can help other Airmen who are hurting, understand they are not alone, I need to share my story’. SMSgt Tesoriero is not only a great first sergeant but an amazing human being. I have total confidence that he will continue to help our Airmen be the best they can be.”  

If you or someone you know is struggling, the National Suicide Prevention Line is 1-800-273-8255. Additionally, Military One Source can be reached at 1-800-342-9647.