Tag Archives: suicides

Army Suicides Rise– No One Knows Why

As of this week, the number of suicides among active duty soldiers who have died as a result of self inflicted wounds has risen to 140 which equals the number who killed themselves during the entire 2008 year. The army insists it has been working diligently to educate military personnel about the need to seek mental health assistance in order to reduce the number of suicides. Officials are still stumped about what is driving this historically high rates across the military force. Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Chiareli could only comment, “each suicide is unique as the individuals themselves.” A mystery is why about one-third of suicides are by men who have not been in actual combat.

There is no question that each suicide is a unique decision and no one can ever state for certainty why person X or Y took his or her own life. But, certainly, there has never been a situation in which members of the military were repeatedly returned to combat over and over again without real rest time at home. The ongoing deployments among a relatively small fighting force of 1.5 million must be a factor. It is not like WWIi when over 12 million served in the armed forces which gave each person a sense they were part of a societal effort. Today, the brave men and women of our armed forces have been left alone to fight by 300,000,00 Americans. This must impact on their mental outlook of life–and death?

Armed Forces Suicide Rates Continue Rising

I served in the armed forces during the Korean War and among the most important aspects of being in the conflict was the realization that one only remained in combat for a specific amount of time and then went home at the conclusion of the term of enlistment. Today, there are thousands and thousands of members of the military who are on their third or fourth, and, even in some cases, the fifth deployment in a combat area. In 2008, at this time, there were 51 confirmed suicides in the armed forces. Suicides went up in May to 17 after dropping to 10 in April but he total for 2009 as of this date is 45 confirmed suicides and 37 pending further investigation. Among reservists there were 23 suicides among reserve soldiers as of this time a year ago and this year there are 16 confirmed suicides and 21 potential ones.

There is no question the armed forces are trying to reduce suicide. But, the reality is that 1.5 million men and women are defending a nation of over 300 million people and the emotional cost is horrific for those who serve in combat. Among the obvious solutions is some form of draft, an idea no one wants to mention.

Why Are Army Recruiters Committing Suicide?

Spc. 1st class Patrick henderson was an Iraq combat veteran who spent the last few months of his life as an Army recruiter which entailed cold calling dozens of people each day in an effort to sign up young men and women to serve in an increasingly unpopular war. If he complained about the 13 hour work days or the difficulties trying to persuade young people to join the armed forces, his superiors snarled back that Sgt. Henderson should be grateful he was in the United States and not serving in Iraq. Less than a year doing the recruiting, the sergeant went into his backyard shed and hung himself. He became at age 35 the fourth member of the Army’s Houston Recruiting Battalion to commit suicide in the past three years. His wife, Sgt. Amanda Henderson commented in despair: “Over there in Iraq, you’re doing this high-intensive job you are recognized for. Then, you come back here and one month you’re a hero, one month later you’re a loser because you didn’t put anyone in.”

There are 38 Army recruiting battalions and only one other surpasses Henderson’s in the number of suicide deaths. His mother said her son never complained but felt his work just sucked and he felt like a complete failure. Paul Rieckhoff, of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America said recruiting “is arguably the toughest job in the military” and the recruiters are constantly under great stress.

Sgt. Henderson saw extensive combat during his tour in Iraq and witnessed the death of several friends. However, once back home in the safety of America he was under constant pressure to produce and had to account for every minute of his time and face complaints he had not recruited enough young men and women. Is this the way American treats its brave men and women?

Japanese Teacher Keeps Alive Anti-War Spirit

The Japanese government has been negligent in its presentation of World War II, particularly as it relates to actions of Japanese military forces and their brutality. Chie Miyagi, an English teacher in Okinawa has written, “A Letter From Okinawa” which depicts the battle of Okinawa during which the Japanese military ordered civilians to kill themselves rather than surrender to the Americans. Ms. Myiyagi’s story is really that of her mother who happened to be serving as a nurse and escaped the Okinawa events. However, her own parents died in this manner. Ms. Miyagi is endeavoring to assist her students deal with their nation’s past even as World War II events disappear from their memories.

Ms. Myigai was assisted in writing the English language picture book by Professor Peter Simpson of Okinawa International University. Professor Simpson notes that “in Okinawa, the memory of the war, especially among young people is fading. Even the antiwar kind of culture is under threat.

For those interested in securing a copy of her book, please contact: Okinawa Jiji Publishing Co. phone: 098 854-1622

Most Veteran Suicides From National Guard and Reserves

A study by the Department of Veterans Affairs concludes that Reservists and members of the National Guard who fought in Afghanistan and Iraq comprise a majority of all suicides by veterans between 2001 when the invasion of Afghanistan took place and 2005 when the United States was actively involved in Iraq. Soldiers from these two groups constitute 53% of veteran suicides from this period. Of the 144 suicides during this time, 24% were from those who served in the Reserves and 29% from members of the National Guard.

Paul Riedhoff, executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America believes there has been inaequate counselling available to these veterans and the continued pressure of being away from families over an extended time period, has been damaging to many who served. “National Guardsmen and reservists are literally in Baghdad one week and in Brooklyn the next, and the transition is tough.”

The nation has asked tremendous sacrifices of those in the National Guard or Reserves. They are deployed for 18 months from family and their careers, and, all too frequently head back for anothe 18 months. The United States of America has failed these gallant individuals by refusing to either curtail such military ventures or obtaining the necessary manpower to carry them out. This is simply another legacy of Bush’s tragic mistakes in the Middle East.