More US Troops Dead from Suicide Than from Combat

Christian Ohnimus has more.

Bring them home.

Oh, and Erin Raymond of the Military Council of Catholic Women writes to ask that you please pray for a family she knows who just got word that their husband and father was killed in Afghanistan.

May his soul and all the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Mother Mary, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Father, grant this wounded family grace, strength and peace in this hour of trial. Bless them with your presence and provision and see them through.

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  • Hezekiah Garrett

    I think this one will catch fire in the comment boxes sometime today…

  • Kirt Higdon

    I read recently that the ratio of veterans’ suicides to combat deaths in Iraq/Afghanistan was 25 to one. A few months ago, I was saddened to hear of the death by suicide of an Iraq vet whose parents I knew and who played with my kids when he was a child.

  • Sean O

    Why is no one helping these depleted soldiers and veterans? Simple answer. As Dick Cheney might explain, “We have different priorities.”

    Hell don’t you remember all the yellow magnetic “support the troop ribbons” and the flag pins on the lapels? What more do you want? All this constant whining annoys tough guy patriots like Phil Graham. Could we please get him on TV to sort this out for us?

  • Ted Seeber

    My first post for the day, but only because I have something factual to add:

    There’s a disease called CTE. Used to be common among boxers and before helmets, among football players. It comes from repeated blows to the head. It seems that there is now some evidence that the shock waves from modern high explosives can cause this disease; and that large numbers of soldiers who commit suicide OFF the battlefield are indeed suffering from CTE.

    In other words- the suicide is just a symptom of a wider problem.

    Very very sad- but there is no cure for CTE, and I have no suggestions for preventing the suicide of a person who has this form of brain damage at all, other than to pray and provide them with as much material support as you possibly can, if you have a soldier in your family.

    • I have a suggestion: stop the unnecessary wars. No soldiers in harm’s way equals no CTE.

      • ivan_the_mad

        There you go with common sense again. The government and media are most disappointed.

        But in all seriousness, this is beyond tragic.

      • Ted Seeber

        Good idea- but there are also other people who are not soldiers and not in wars that are exposed to modern high explosives.

        One wonders if famous atheist and mythbuster Adam Savage (what is it with people whose last name is Savage?!?!?) might end up that way after 10 or 40 years of blowing stuff up for the Discovery Channel.

  • Dan C

    The consequences of these wars will ripple through the next decades. The human cost will be high. The human support medically and psychologically is not a priority though. Adequate care is not cheap. It was underfunded and continues to be so. This too will have consequences.

    The “support the troops” theme seems to have disappeared over the years since 2006. Now, the occasional Facebook posting evokes some serotonin flush in the brain, but little real commitment, in dollars.

    The VA is that part of the budget that the conservative think tanks lump under “social entitlements.”. It is not a desired series of expenditures.

  • Julia

    Sad, but not at all surprising. The top brass can talk all they want about how “you’re not weak if you seek help” and “seeking psychological help will not negatively impact your career,” but that message is NOT trickling down. I have seen soldiers be ridiculed and punished by their superiors for trying to get help. And then there are the soldiers who don’t even try to get help because they are just expected to live with brain injuries and PTSD.

    War is hell.

  • Ollokot

    Due to injury I was stationed in Bagram for my last deployment (2008-9). Suicides and attempted suicides were very common, every few days or so, in a base that doubled in size during my stay to an approximate 13,000+ service members and various contractors. I would disagree with the CTE theory being a primary cause for the current rate of soldier suicide in theater, I saw/knew just as many civilian contractors as service members attempt or succeed in killing themselves- often in very dramatic ways.

    My VA counselor once told me that the going rate for veteran suicides here in the US is one per hour. Maybe CTE plays a factor stateside with that. I don’t know. I do know from my experience is that homecoming is the hardest part of a deployment; your family and friends got on with their lives without you, they’re different now, you’re different now, everything is different, home is now a foreign land that you have to learn how to live in again.

    As a veteran you have been reshaped forever by a set of experiences that no one who hasn’t lived through war can understand- and if you attempt to talk/drawn out to talk about the war, the ensuing conversation quickly degenerates into a Left v. Right slogan shout fest, the human factor buried under ideology. For me, because I was there, Iraq and Afghanistan aren’t political issues, they are deeply personal ones- it takes a lot of strength to learn to live with that; strength that those who haven’t been blessed with faith and strong family may not possess.

    • Mark Shea

      God bless you. Thanks for your service. I’m grateful to you.

    • Ted Seeber

      Thank you for your service- and I agree, in theater CTE would not be much of a concern. Even at home it isn’t- the symptoms of CTE take YEARS after the initial injury to develop.

      But I’d also point out civilian contractors- especially those working around modern HE- are NOT immune. Just because your paycheck comes through a bodyshop instead of from the government is not a shield against the problems of war. I wonder if we recognize that fact at all when it comes to Vet benefits?

  • Quinault

    My husband Ollokot’s point is that CTE isn’t the sole cause of the increase in suicides. CTE may play a part, but it is one of many reasons that the returning men and women might contemplate suicide. The reasons for suicide amongst military personnel varies just as much as it does in the non-military population.

    • Marion (Mael Muire)

      “The reasons for suicide amongst military personnel varies just as much as it does in the non-military population.”

      I’m not sure I can agree with that statement. Of course individual variations may be expected to occur in the reasons for suicide among military. But at the time that they enlist, military members are going to be among the youngest, healthiest, and fittest adults of all the population, and thus the least likely to be at risk for suicide, going in. Compared to most experiences in civilian life (short of incarceration), the experience of being in the military is an all-encompassing one, and one that exposes the individual to a unique set of stressors, stressors that are quite different to those experienced among most of the civilian population. Formerly young, fit, healthy specimens suddenly face debility and disability as a result of combat-related injuries (much more prevalent among our military), while also facing lengthy absences from home and family and resulting feelings of isolation, loneliness and estrangement (also much more prevalent among our military). Although these stressors are not unique to our military, both are to one degree or another encountered nearly universally among its members, much more so than among the general population. And I believe it is this combination of these particular stressors that transform a sizable number of these formerly young, fit, healthy specimens into persons who are now convinced that it would be better if they weren’t alive anymore. This is beyond tragic. And I believe stressors unique to their military service are driving most of those numbers. Poor kids. Please pray for them. God bless our brave men and women in uniform.

  • Faith Roberts

    This is so awful. But was this suicide thing so common among other war veterans? My dad was a WWII vet. He was a Navy pilot shot down in the Pacific. He survived, of course, or I wouldn’t be here and maybe he never was exposed to the kind of explosions that current veterans are, but how come we didn’t have a rash of suicides from other wars? Or did we? I somehow think this must really be tied to two other issues as well as the physical one of CTE: 1) these wars are not grounded in what just wars are, namely, defense of country. WWII was truly a defensive war against patent evil. Believing in the justice of your actions makes for more resiliency of the soul, perhaps? And 2) our society today is so godless, with no strong sense of the value of life and right and wrong. Everything is so alienating and nihilistic anyway, and then to have this type of trauma on top of that. . . well, it can obviously lead to despair. So, so sad. I’m going to include these young men in my daily prayers. Something I should have been doing all along.

  • Marion (Mael Muire)

    Here’s what I have heard about at least some of the suicides among our brave men and women in uniform (and this is anecdotal.) Because these wars have been either going on or in the offing for twenty years, the same servicemen and women have either been deployed, are home about to be deployed, are home after being deployed and soon to be called up, are on their way to their third, fourth or fifth tour of duty, are currently serving their third, fourth or fifth tour of duty . . . it’s very stressful on them. It’s an endless carousel ride of facing being turned into a wisp of red spray at any moment. Or, for the lucky ones, having a limb blown off, is all, but surviving.

    Can you imagine? You make it through one or two tours relatively unscathed. You’re home, readjusting. You’ve seen several of your buddies disappear into wisps of red spray, and have limbs blown off, but so far, you’re OK. Now you hear you’re about to be called up again. And you have to go. They will just simply keep cycling you and cycling you until you, too, disappear into a wisp of red spray, and oops! you’re no longer available.

    That didn’t happen during WWII. In WWII, we had a draft. Everybody went – regular army guys as well as draftees filled out the ranks so that once you served your year or two years or whatever it was, you went home, and you could be sure of staying at home. Because of the draft, there were enough bodies to get the job done.

    But not today, and not with today’s wars. The sacrifice of sons and daughters is being made by only a relatively small cluster of families, most residing in our heartland and in our South, and mostly from working-class and middle-class families. And their boys and girls are being recycled over and over again, while the majority of American young adults study, go to schoool, work, and serve in internships and enjoy Spring Break.

    What I would like to see is legislation requiring that once any American servicemen or women are deployed abroad for, say, six weeks, then on day 43 (the seventh week), a draft kicks in: everybody goes to bootcamp and then gets shipped overseas. And I mean, everybody, no exceptions, no deferments, no exemptions. Four-Fs drive ambulances, scrub latrines, peel potatoes, and open the mail for the brass. Women are drafted, too, into national service at home – staffing offices, munitions factories – not voluntary – DRAFT. On day 43.

    I promise you, on Day 44 of one of these g*dd*mned overseas adventures, you will hear such a yowl of protest from the American people rising up and besieging the halls of Congress and the White House and the Pentagon, that our forces will be speedily brought home . . . and these overseas dudes will be left to sort it out among themselves, as they should have been doing all along.

    No more recycling of troops. That’s a part of why they’re offing themselves. Horrible, horrible. It makes me ashamed of my country.

    • Marion (Mael Muire)

      P.S., I shouldn’t have said, “it makes me ashamed of my country.” I could never be ashamed of the USA.

      I should have said, “it makes me ashamed of the people currently in office running our country, and ashamed that the American people tolerate this injustice.”

  • Matthew

    True, but misleading. It is similar to the bulletin that the army put out regarding motorcycles during the height of the Iraq war, which read: More troops being killed by motorcycles accidents each month than combat fatalities. It was true, and highlighted a known danger in the hopes people would take it more seriously.

    But it is misleading. Suicide is, after all, a leading cause of death in the military age male demographic. It is also a reflection of the low casualty rate of these wars.

    It is similar to saying: More children killed by Fords than child molesters in America! Well, that may be true. So are the claims about the evils of di-hydrogen monoxide, which kills thousands each year! Also true. But just point out the obvious: Di-hydrogen monoxide is an amusing, slightly tortured, word for water. Ford is not evil for making cars which get driven by imperfect drivers in rapidly changing and diverse enviorments. And this report is a result of low casualty rates in these recent wars, and little else.

  • Annie

    Bring all your beautiful young men and women who are so very very precious HOME from the hell hole that is Afghanistan!
    They are losing their lives daily and do any one of us truly understand why?
    We will never be able to replace that which we have lost and we are allowing young kids who really havent a clue what it is all about to go to a barron land and suffer or die.
    We are letting this happen under our nose, we are comfortable in our warm beds the question is do we really care?
    When they come home the realise our concern or lack off.
    By the way I am not American but this situation just breaks my heart.
    Americans get a grip!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!