GI Suicide– Could It Have Been Prevented?

Private Jason Sheuerman nailed a suicide note to his barracks closet in iraq, stepped inside, and shot himself. The note said simply, “Maybe finaly, I can get some peace.” His parents did not discover that the had written such a note until a year after the suicide when they received the paper in an envelope sent to them. Jason’s father, Chris Sheuerman, a retired Special Forces commando who currently teaches at Fort Bragg, has taken on the US Army, an institution he loves and admires, because he wants answers about his son’s death– did Jason really have to die? What did the father find out?

A psychologist told his commanders to send Jason back to his unit because he was capable of feigning mental illness to get out of the Army. Jason killed himself on July 20, 2005 around 5:30 p.m.about 45 minutes after his first sergeant told the exhausted young man that if he was intentionally misbehaving so he could leave the Army, he would go to jail where he would be abused. A friend of Jason said when he heard that someone had killed himself, his first thought was that it was Jason.

Jason came from a military family. His mother had served for a year, his father retired as a master sergeant and a brother is now serving in Afghanistan. In the documents received by Chris Sheuerman, a soldier mentions seeing Jason place a rifle into his mouth claiming he was only joking. Jason began to dress sloppy, did not take showers and spent time playing video games. Other soldiers believed Jason was being singled out by the sergeants for his behavior and once was made to do pushups in front of Iraqi troops which caused him considerable humiliation. A chaplain who talked with Jason was disturbed that he held a rifle between his legs and bobbed his head on the muzzle. On a medical questionnaire, Jason indicated feelings of depression and hopelessness, but the psychologist who saw him did not see any such signs of mental illness. But, he did recommend that Jason sleep where others could observe his behavior.

The day before his suicide Jason was placed on punishment for 14 days. Then, he committed suicide. His father wants a thorough investigation and those responsible for not being more cognizant of his son’s suicidal potential evaluated in order to prevent such occurrences in the future. As he put it, “the people that I trusted with the safety of my son killed him, and that hurts beyond words because we are a family of soldiers.”