BELTON - Ft Hood, TX (KCEN) - On June 5th a man balanced on a wall 60 feet in the air. The ledge was maybe a foot wide, and it was part of the Lake Belton scenic overlook near the dam. Many people passed him but paid no attention. Was he a thrill seeker? Maybe. But a closer look would show the man teetering on the edge was about to take his own life.
Many people were there that day. They were at the right spot at the right time to intervene with a suicide. But only two people would really look and see a man who needed help.
“He wasn’t talkative. He was by himself and I knew something was wrong,” said Specialist Victor Bonilla, a Fort Hood soldier with the First Cavalry Division Sustainment Brigade.
Bonilla and his roommate, Private First Class Ruslan Hinson, were bored that day. They decided to leave the barracks and explore Lake Belton. That decision would forever change their lives and the life of a complete stranger.
It wasn’t until they were leaving the scenic overlook that they saw the man standing on the ledge. “He was crying. He was emotional and upset,” said Hinson. “We just reacted. We didn’t even have time to think.”
Disregarding his fear of heights and his own safety, Bonilla carefully stepped onto the ledge. He inched closer until he could reach the man. His father is a certified hostage negotiator, and Bonilla dug deep to remember what his father taught him. “I kept talking to him and tried to relate. He was verbally aggressive and hostile,” said Bonilla. “Some people lose hope. I didn’t want him to lose hope.”
Hinson saw he was no use on the narrow ledge, and he immediately called 911. As he was on the phone with the dispatcher, he noticed a sheriff’s deputy drive by. He ran to the road to flag him down to make sure his roommate had back up.
“We couldn’t leave him alone. We didn’t know what was running through his head. It was scary because one mistake could cost him his life,” said Hinson.
After 40 minutes of talking to the man, the people at the scenic overlook got a beautiful view. Two men helped a stranger off the ledge and saved his life. What Bonilla and Hinson did not know at the time, is they had just saved the life of a fellow soldier.
“Nothing would ever beat that feeling. Nothing,” said Bonilla. “That’s somebody’s son, somebody’s nephew, somebody’s brother. Someone out there must care about him.”
The young soldier was immediately check out by EMS on the scene – thanks to Hinson’s call – and was later taken to the hospital to be evaluated. As for Hinson and Bonilla, they are now more alert and aware of the people they pass by.
(© 2016 KCEN)