By Mike Mavredakis
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TOLLAND, Conn. — A routine traffic stop on Interstate 84 on Sept. 11 turned into a memorable moment between a trooper from the Connecticut State Police and a U.S. Army veteran.
Trooper Kyle Kaelberer pulled over onto the right shoulder near Exit 68 of I-84 to assist a motorist with their hazard lights on. Kaelberer found a man in distress, who identified himself as an Army veteran. The man said he was on the phone with a counselor from a suicide prevention hotline for military veterans.
“We’ll help you out, all right bud?” Kaelberer said to the veteran, according to a video released by state police. “I’m here with you. I’m here with you, all right?”
Kaelberer told the veteran he was going to request an ambulance and that the state would cover the cost of it. He then asked the veteran to step out of his truck to talk.
“It’s a tough time for everyone in your position, I’m here with you,” Kaelberer said.
The veteran then asked for a hug and Kaelberer obliged.
The state police said the veteran was able to receive medical assistance and reminded Connecticut residents to call 988 for immediate help in case they or someone they know is contemplating suicide.
“We encourage [people contemplating suicide] to call 988, call 911 if it’s immediate, and we’ll respond,” Sgt. Christine Jeltema said. “988 will respond as well to them and get them the help that they need.”
Jeltema advised motorists to activate their hazard lights, like the veteran did, when in need of help. State troopers are trained to check with motorists with active hazards even when off-duty.
Often when motorists stop with their hazards on they are in need of directions or there’s something wrong with their vehicle, Jeltema said. This time, it helped identify a man in distress.
“I just think that the other side of law enforcement is that compassion,” Jeltema said. “We’re trained to deal with people who are in [a] mental health crisis, and it’s something that we as troopers and law enforcement do every day.”
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