Service members from across Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst gathered to celebrate the official opening of Sean’s Room at the 305th Air Mobility Wing’s Passenger Terminal on October 10, 2023.
The ribbon-cutting ceremony was officiated by Gen. Mike Minihan, Air Mobility Command commander, along with other speakers who played key roles in making Sean’s Room at the Can Do Wing a reality.
Modeled after Sean’s House, a program based in Newark, Delaware, Sean’s Room offers a safe peer-to-peer environment for JB MDL personnel to receive mental health support and maintain confidentiality as required by law.
Sean’s House was originally founded by Christopher Locke after he tragically lost his son, Sean, to suicide in 2018.
“Sean’s Room is a place for Airmen to make a difference,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Elizabeth Hanson, 305th Air Mobility Wing commander. “Airmen have embraced it and made it their own. It provides numerous options for individuals, with the primary one being access to peer-to-peer support. It reduces barriers, is less formal, and information shared here does not become part of one’s medical record, which reduces stigma and enhances access to help. Everyone is welcome, regardless of their uniform.”
After losing two friends to suicide within a year, U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Connor Runkle, a C-17 Globemaster III Crew Chief from the 305th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, collaborated with Col. Hanson to bring this program to JB MDL.
“When I met Mr. Christopher Locke and heard his story about his son’s passing and why he started Sean’s House, he inspired me to attend every charter team meeting and advocate for the change I wanted to see here,” said Runkle. “With Col. Hanson’s support, various training programs, and the assistance of supporting agencies, we’ve been able to see over 500 guests and save nine lives so far. These individuals received the help and support they needed because we were there to answer their calls.”
To promote engagement, Sean’s Room peers sign non-disclosure agreements to ensure that individuals not only receive the resources they need but also maintain a level of privacy.
“Don’t underestimate the potential of our youngest and brightest Airmen, and while we’re grateful for the nine lives saved, we must never be complacent,” Minihan said. “This program was brought into existence through sheer determination, and it needs to continue serving the 305th just in the way that it has. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution or program because humans make up the Wings, and humans are complex. Sean’s Room, and other programs like it are making a difference in the lives of Airmen and that embodies the Warrior Heart.”
Sean’s Room marks the newest mental health resource at JB MDL, along with similar and previously established programs such as True North, Military OneSource, and the Chaplain Corps.
In closing, the father of Sean, Mr. Locke, who inspired Sean’s House and later Sean’s Room, also addressed those in attendance about the significance of witnessing this program’s establishment at the Joint Base.
“I stand here today in appreciation of leaders who recognized an opportunity to act and chose the harder path followed,” said Locke. Sean’s Room has brought hope to others during times of darkness, and I can’t think of a greater legacy for my son.”
Sean’s Room JBMDL is located in the McGuire Passenger Terminal and open seven days a week from 0700 to 2300. After hours, Sean’s Room peers may be reached at 609-864-7210. All service branches may utilize this resource.