The 13th Warrior: What My Friend Taught Me About Mental Health

Lacey Latkovic

a member of Quartet’s Veteran Employee Resource Group

May 25, 2020

Drew “Ferg” Ferguson was my first mentor in ROTC. He was one year ahead of me in class. I wanted to be just like him. He was the most spirited individual I think I ever met in my life. He was the epitome of the phrase “work hard, play harder” and he was hilarious.

Among all things, he taught me how to never ever give up in the face of adversity, how to trust my instincts during land navigation, and how to never lose my sense of urgency nor sense of humor. In fact, he said “Latkovic, if you can find a way to marry your sense of urgency with your sense of humor, you will forever have a gravitational pull.” Sometimes, we use humor to disguise how we are really feeling inside. I know I do and I think he did too.

Ferg was special. He was a lover and a fighter. During his first Army school where our future fates are decided for us, he graduated 13th out of 4000 cadets. We coined him “the 13th warrior.” Drew was destined to lead Troops into battle. He ended up later going Special Operations. His tours of duty ended up taking over and in 2017, he took his own life.

While Memorial Day is a celebration for most — and indeed, it should be — Memorial Day for Veterans is a reminder of those who have perished before us; who have answered the call to duty. On this day, we celebrate them and commemorate their lives. “Ferg” would encourage us all to enjoy the life we are living on this day and the freedom we have to do so.

A foundation — Project D.R.E.W. — was created in honor of Ferg because he loved music and art.

If I remember him the way I think I do, he would have encouraged people to get mental health care when they need it. A mind is an ever-evolving machine that requires maintenance. Sometimes our minds can allow us to feel strong, other times they allow us to feel sad. And both are ok. If you are a Veteran and this day brings up difficult memories, know that you are not alone. Suffering in silence can be a deadly disease. There are resources out there for you, such as the Veterans Crisis Line.

If you are a loved one of a Veteran who is suffering, you can encourage them in many ways:

  1. You can encourage them to use one of the resources mentioned above
  2. You can encourage them to reach out to someone who knew the person who has gone before them and whom they grieve for
  3. Above all, be patient in their journey to peace. Grief from battle is a life-long sentence. Waves of sadness return on days other than Memorial Day and often in ways misunderstood by loved ones. Give them grace, and give yourself grace too

A foundation was created in honor of Ferg because he loved music and art. If you are Veteran interested in putting your words and experiences into music click here. Drew is forever missed and will live on forever in our hearts and in our minds. I miss you, buddy. Wish you were here.

If you or someone you know is struggling or in crisis, you are not alone. The Veteran Crisis Line is staffed 24 hours a day. Call 1–800–273–8255. Select “1” for a Veterans Affairs staffer. En Español: 1- 888–628–9454. Deaf and hard of hearing: 800–799–4889. Online:

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