Support The Troops. Help Stop Soldier Suicides

(Tis in the news once again.  Our troops take their own lives.

During the month of January, more soldiers committed suicide (24) than were killed by enemy fire in Afghanistan and Iraq combined (16). This is unusual, but–amazingly–not unique. In fact, the problem of military suicides is growing much worse, as Army Chief of Staff George Casey said yesterday in Hawaii.

Casey claimed to be mystified by the suicide rates:

“The fact of the matter is, we just don’t know” why suicides have increased, Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr. said Friday. “It’s been very frustrating to me with the effort that we made over the last year, and we did not stem the tide.”

Read more: Military Suicides

By Joe Klein
Monday, March 1, 2020

– promoted by Betsy L. Angert)

Andrew Horne on MSNBC Discuss Soldier Suicide

copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

“Supporting the troops means more than slapping a bumper sticker on your car”

~ David Berry, 26, Iraq Veteran

They say the soldiers fight for our freedom, and while many may argue the truth of this statement, no one can dispute that we must support our troops.  Today, citizens have a chance to demonstrate that we, the people care about those who serve our country in combat.  Please reflect on a reality too terrible to ignore, soldier suicide.  Then, if you choose telephone, or write, your Florida State Representative.  Express your desire to endorse State Bill 2554, Prevention Services for Veterans and Their Families, submitted by Senator Ted Deutch.  If you are not a Florida resident, please ponder what you can do within your home region.  The tales and the tears of those torn from within tell an unforgettable story.  Will we listen, and look for ways to help those hurt by our war?

Lieutenant Elizabeth Whiteside, was a psychiatric outpatient at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.  The soldier was distressed and depressed.  While in Iraq, a year ago, the woman was accused of endangering another solider.  She also pointed a gun at herself.  As she awaited a verdict she became more anxious.  Army officials would decide her fate.   She expected to be  court-martialed.  Before the judgment was heard, the Lieutenant decided to end her own life.

In so doing, the 25-year-old Army reservist joined a record number of soldiers who have committed or tried to commit suicide after serving in Iraq or Afghanistan.

“I’m very disappointed with the Army,” Whiteside wrote in a note before swallowing dozens of antidepressants and other pills. “Hopefully this will help other soldiers.” She was taken to the emergency room early Tuesday [January 29, 2008]. Whiteside, who is now in stable physical condition, learned yesterday that the charges against her had been dismissed.

Suicides among active-duty soldiers in 2007 reached their highest level since the Army began keeping such records in 1980, according to a draft internal study obtained by The Washington Post. Last year, 121 soldiers took their own lives, nearly 20 percent more than in 2006.

At the same time, the number of attempted suicides or self-inflicted injuries in the Army has jumped sixfold since the Iraq war began. Last year, about 2,100 soldiers injured themselves or attempted suicide, compared with about 350 in 2002, according to the U.S. Army Medical Command Suicide Prevention Action Plan.

Suicide is not painless as the song might have mused.  Nor is the life of a soldier after they have experienced warfare.  The men and women who serve their country proudly, often cannot cope with the scope of what has become their newfound reality.  War is wicked.  Most think warfare is wrong.  Some say it is a necessary evil.  Collectively, we might agree; to kill is debauched, depraved, and despicable.  Yet, in the name of G-d and country, our youth are asked to take the lives of others.  Few consider how such an action might affect the individual who executes a person labeled the “enemy.”

Those who may have never pulled a trigger, still suffer.  The sight of what they witnessed while in country can cause such pain.  A veteran, or an active duty warrior, when alone, may not be able to escape the memories that fill the mind after such a dire experience..

A battle may be won; however, much is lost when we engage in death and destruction.  Perhaps, innocence is invaluable.  We may wish to ask ourselves as many an experienced soldier has, “Is a victor, also a victim?” Is an experienced military man or woman wounded in ways we, those who have not served, cannot imagine?  There are no official totals; nonetheless, anecdotally, we know soldier suicides are not uncommon.  A five-month CBS News investigation revealed those who saw battle, frequently sought serenity in death by their own hand.   The decision to depart from an Earthly existence before it is time, may be a epidemic amongst the troops. Chief Investigative Reporter Armen Keteyian offers an exclusive and exasperating report.

“I just felt like this silent scream inside of me,” said Jessica Harrell, the sister of a soldier who took his own life.

“I opened up the door and there he was,” recalled Mike Bowman, the father of an Army reservist.

“I saw the hose double looped around his neck,” said Kevin Lucey, another military father.

“He was gone,” said Mia Sagahon, whose soldier boyfriend committed suicide.  . . .

Twenty-three-year-old Marine Reservist Jeff Lucey hanged himself with a garden hose in the cellar of this parents’ home – where his father, Kevin, found him.

“There’s a crisis going on and people are just turning the other way,” Kevin Lucey said.

Kim and Mike Bowman’s son Tim was an Army reservist who patrolled one of the most dangerous places in Baghdad, known as Airport Road.

“His eyes when he came back were just dead. The light wasn’t there anymore,” Kim Bowman said.

Eight months later, on Thanksgiving Day, Tim shot himself. He was 23.

Diana Henderson’s son, Derek, served three tours of duty in Iraq. He died jumping off a bridge at 27.

“Going to that morgue and seeing my baby … my life will never be the same,” she said.

An existence, comfortable, cozy, and calm is never as it was, once we have witnessed inconceivable horrors.  The tragedy, the trauma that is the Iraq War has changed many an individual.  Studies show the suicide risk among male United States veterans is double that of the general population.  This study, and thus, the statistic, does not include those who served in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Yet, soldiers who served in these more recent conflicts are known to be more depressed, more likely to be diagnosed with a mental health problems.  A fifth of soldiers are at risk for Post Traumatic stress Syndrome.  Mental illness common in returning United States soldiers.

We need only consider recent reports; Army Suicides Highest in 26 Years.  While the numbers may not be exact, it is obvious, our  troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, frequently fight the war within.  They continue the battle once home.

Doctor Mark S. Kaplan, Professor of Community Health at Portland State University in Oregon, lead author of a study in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health pleads, “We need to be more alert to the problem of suicide as a major public health issue and we need to do better screening among individuals who have served in the military, probe for their mental health risk as well as gun availability.”  

We can be grateful, in November 2007, the United States Congress concluded there was a need to address the issue.  The House and Senate each passed the Joshua Omvig Veterans Suicide Prevention Act.  While the United States Code is designed “to direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to develop and implement a comprehensive program designed to reduce the incidence of suicide among veterans,” those of us familiar with the depth of a depression that might lead someone to submit to suicide, know that the Federal government alone cannot stop a soldier sworn to end it all.  We must act locally.  If you chose, please contact your Representatives, do what you can to save the lives of those who hoped to save yours.  By doing so, we the people, can and will decide what  support means to us.

Support the Troops.  Prevent Soldier Suicides Sources . . .