Changing lives, saving lives

Editor’s note: This story touches on the topic of suicide. Through this story, the subject and The American Legion hope to shine a light on the Be the One mission, which is dedicated to saving the lives of veterans. If you are a veteran having suicidal ideation, call the Crisis Line at 988 and press 1.


Eric “Scott” Foulks was experiencing a dark phase while at the Wounded Warrior Battalion at Fort Knox, Ky. Not only did he sustain physical injuries from being wounded by an IED during his time as an Army platoon sergeant, Foulks suffered post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injuries.

“Thirteen of the 26 soldiers in my platoon committed suicide.”

Foulks was quickly sinking into debt. “I was losing everything we owned, I was behind on house payments, car payments. I couldn’t even afford my can of chew or water.”

At the same time, his marriage also was tanking. “I didn’t want to live anymore,” says Foulks, a combat engineer who deployed twice to Iraq and once to Afghanistan. “My family hated me. My wife and daughters were ready to leave. I was irritable, I was angry. They described it as walking on eggshells around me. They didn’t want to set me off.”

Each day he would get up around 11 a.m., play a game on his phone in his chair, eat and go back to bed. At one point, he was taking 33 prescription pills a day. Now, after waking up, “it’s a different ballgame.”

He’s awake by 7 a.m. to bring his daughter to school, then attends to assisting veterans during the day. Instead of his phone beeping game sounds, it’s ringing constantly with calls from veterans he’s helping.

“It gets busy at times but that’s fine,” says Foulks, commander at Post 21 in Rogersville, Tenn. “It keeps my mind busy. If I help this veteran, then it’s on to the next. They know they can reach me when they need to.” 

A timely intervention

Foulks’ journey from desperation to inspiration hit an initial speed bump when he mustered up the courage to seek assistance. After relocating to Georgia, the wheelchair-bound veteran went to a veterans nonprofit organization and requested assistance. The members never looked up from their card game.

“The only thing that was said to me was, ‘I fought my war. I can’t fight yours,’” he recalls. “I rolled out the door with tears in my eyes. It almost discouraged me from seeking help from veterans. I literally cried to my wife. All I could say was, ‘Wow.’”

Foulks tried again a few days later at American Legion Post 172 in Warner Robins, Ga. 

“They took me in, saved my home, saved my family,” he recalls. “They got me in contact with the right people, including Operation Homefront. Within 24 hours of contacting Operation Homefront, they gave me $15,000, paid for my house and cars. They got me set to where I needed to be in life. That’s what brought me to the Legion. Veterans taking care of veterans.” 

That intervention saved Foulks, his wife, two daughters and mother from ending up homeless.

“It was a big relief, a weight being lifted off our shoulders. Me and my family could breathe. When I got that good response from The American Legion, I felt like somebody — not a number.”

Before receiving that assistance, Foulks was desperate. After his initial rejection from another veterans organization, he put a pistol to his mouth and pulled the trigger. There were other attempts, too. But his wife and fellow veterans have rallied, a demonstration of the power of Be the One.

“It didn’t go off,” he recalls of the first attempt. “To this day, there’s no reason why it shouldn’t have gone off. The only reason is that God has a purpose for me here.”

That purpose — the niche he discovered — is serving his veteran community as an American Legion member.

‘Find your niche’

After moving to Tennessee, Foulks was determined to give back and prop up his local Legion post. Just like Post 172 in Georgia had uplifted him. He quickly became adjutant and then commander.

“You got to find your niche in life,” he says, noting his hobbies have included woodworking but now his focus is helping veterans. “The American Legion has helped me get that niche. It’s been a great opportunity.”

As commander, Foulks has elevated the post’s standing in the community. “We’ve just got to keep getting out in the community and letting people know who we are and being seen,” he said.

That also translates to the First District.

“There’s a lot of people who care about The American Legion,” he said. “We’re like a family in our district. One thing that is very important to us in the department and the district is the Be the One campaign.”

‘Just save one’

In fact, the district is hosting its second annual Be the One Challenge 22 Walk on April 6 in Bristol.

“Be the One has been important to me, and we started it with the walk last year in Bristol to get people’s attention,” 1st District Commander James McLaughlin said. “We’ve taken it very seriously. Just save one.”

McLaughlin, who has been a mentor to Foulks, remembers him exhibiting anger when they first met. But through talking, they were able to forge solutions.

“Scott has really changed the culture of this post,” said McLaughlin, an Army veteran and adjutant of Post 104 in Sevierville. “This post is constantly doing something. This post is alive. My family has figured it out because they are all members now. They want to be part of the mission at Post 21.”

Foulks has unified the district Riders, McLaughlin says, citing another example of his mentee’s leadership.

“He is red, white and blue — dyed in Legion blue.”

A shining example

During his travels to posts, American Legion National Commander Daniel J. Seehafer often talks about Be the One and how the mission “changes lives and saves lives.” Without naming Foulks, Seehafer often cites his story as an example.

While Seehafer was visiting Tennessee, Foulks shared his entire story with the commander, including the suicide attempts.

“As I’m hearing this, I’m thinking the good Lord is in control of this situation,” Seehafer recalls. “And wants you not to take your life, but turn over your life and reach out. And that is what he did. He popped in to an American Legion post. They embraced him and got him back on that foundation by helping him. Out of this tragedy, we have some good news — that is what The American Legion does. That’s what we do — we change lives and we save lives.”

Foulks is honored that his story is reaching countless American Legion Family members across the nation.

“As long as we can save one, like he preaches, that’s the goal,” he says. “It’s a great feeling that he is sharing that story. He is a man of faith and a chaplain. We’re losing too many veterans a day. It’s awesome that he is using it, and I hope the message reaches some veterans.”

Moving onward

The Foulks family is much happier now. Communication has improved. Finances are under control. No more walking on eggshells.

“I still have struggles today and know that I am not alone. There are days when I do get bad. But I know I have family. That’s a big difference.”

His personal crusade to help veterans guides his daily life.

“If you need help, don’t be scared. Just ask. As long as you are still alive, that is all that matters.

“To every veteran out there, find your niche. Find your ‘why.’”