"Coming home": The Conclusion of Salon.com's Series

Bumped and promoted by GH. Originally posted 2009-02-14 10:10:41 -0500.

Top row, left to right: Kenneth Eastridge, Ryan Alderman, Adam Lieberman, Robert Marko. Bottom row: John Needham, Kenneth Lehman, Mark Waltz, Chad Barrett.

In the final article in Salon's series, we ask what President Obama will do about the rise of suicide and murder among U.S. soldiers returning from combat.

This is the conclusion to Salon's weeklong "Coming Home" series, by Mark Benjamin and Michael de Yoanna, on preventable deaths at Fort Carson. You can read the introduction to the series here.

 

It's not about what President Obama will do, but what will this Country, who cheers on Invasions of innocents, than willingly supports their Occupation till they lose interest, do to control what these Wars and Occupations have done to those we've sent. Those of us from this countries previous shows of force and failed policies already know, and we won't allow it to happen again!! President Obama and our representatives in Congress are only that, Our Representatives, it's Our Responsibility to right the wrongs, of the policies, and to take care of those we call Heroe's but are quickly forgotten when they return!

The final installment of the Salon series starts out with this:

 

Feb. 14, 2009 | Two days after the election, the investigative arm of Congress, the Government Accountability Office, released a list of the 13 issues requiring "urgent attention and continuing oversight" from the new administration and Congress. Listen to any politician. Surf the Web. Open a newspaper. You can probably draw up a list yourself pretty quickly, given the recession, two wars and killer peanut butter.

After scanning the headlines, you probably would not jot down the first agenda item on the GAO list of issues "needing the attention of President-elect Obama and the 111th Congress." The first issue on their list: "Caring for Service Members."

Four years ago, Salon exposed inadequate mental healthcare at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, unraveling the first threads in what eventually became part of a national scandal. Today, the grind of multiple deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan translates into scores of damaged soldiers coming home. The trend far outstrips the raft of good-sounding military programs -- seemingly invisible at some Army posts -- the Pentagon set up to help these desperate troops. Forget about moldy barracks or mouse droppings in the hallways. People are dying unnecessarily.

Over the past week, Salon has published a dozen stories and sidebars about the healthcare problems at just one Army post among the many Army installations worldwide, Fort Carson, Colo. Salon dug up 25 cases of suicide, prescription drug overdoses or murder involving Fort Carson-based soldiers since 2004. In-depth study of 10 of those cases exposed a string of preventable deaths. In most cases, deaths seemed avoidable if the Army better identified and then appropriately treated soldiers' combat stress or brain injuries from explosions. In others, the Army, under pressure to deploy more troops in Iraq, brought into the ranks mentally damaged soldiers and then sent them to war. After combat had exacerbated their preexisting problems, the Army set them loose on the streets with deadly consequences.

The rest can be found here.

From page one we're led into page two with this:

"We've had some losses and we've had some soldiers who have done some behaviors that are not accepted in our society"

A few cuts on that page follow:

Throughout all of our reporting, we are unaware of any instance of the Army holding anyone accountable in any way -- from a soldier's first sergeant up to the Army surgeon general -- for any of the missteps documented in our articles.

Former Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala served on a presidential commission, along with former Republican Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas, to formulate solutions to the problems made famous at Walter Reed. Their July 2007 report heavily emphasized better diagnosis and treatment of invisible wounds like PTSD and brain injuries.

And this:

"The problem with the pullout [of troops from Iraq] is not what it will do to Iraq, but what it will do to the United States of America if we are not ready with teams to absorb not simply these young men and women into our society and into our economy, but absorb them into our healthcare system with appropriate and sensitive treatment," she said. "One of the things we had better think about is if we are going to bring a bunch of troops back pretty quickly, we had better be ready for it." She also heavily emphasized preventing troubled soldiers from going to war in the first place.

Which closes with this:

Inside the Pentagon, at least, the rising trend of apparently preventable suicides, murders and other avoidable deaths remains a complicated mystery. Soldiers and their families, meanwhile, are attending too many funerals.

More than food for thought!!

You can find links to the other installments of this week long series at the bottom of this recent, and last, installment.

The following is a Press Release from Veterans For Peace:

Veterans For Peace

Veteran Organization: “Congress Must Face Escalating Military
Suicides. Bring the troops home now!” PDF

The United States military is scrambling to head off what has turned into an epidemic of suicides. As reported
on CNN, 24 service members killed themselves in January of this year, six times as many as in January of last
year. 2008 was the fourth consecutive year of increases in soldier suicides.

Veterans For Peace Executive Director Michael McPhearson said this is not a surprise to him. “It is tragic. It is
the culmination of years of continuous deployments and general stress the Armed Services have been put
under because of an invasion and subsequent occupation that should have never happened.”

The Army Times reports that Army Secretary Pete Geren has ordered a February 13, 2009, one day halt to
recruitment activities also known as stand-down of the Army’s entire recruiting force and a review of almost
every aspect of the job in the wake of a wide-ranging investigation of four suicides in a Houston Recruiting
Battalion.

Mike Ferner, Veterans For Peace’s National President stated, "I don't want to see anybody in Washington shed
one tear for the families surviving these suicides as long as Congress continues to fund these wars and the
President continues to deploy more troops. You put people through combat; you get suicides and PTSD related
violence back home. That's the simple equation Congress and the President cannot ignore."

One vivid example of this equation comes from the Houston Chronicle, which reported in a May 18, 2008 that
an Army investigation attributed the 4 recruiter suicides to a combination of work environment, stress and
personal issues. The latest was the March 6, 2007 death of Sergeant Nils Aron Andersson who shot himself in
the temple less than 24 hours after his wedding to Cassy Walton. Cassy killed herself the next day.

McPhearson went on to add; “Nils Anderson’s death was nearly two years ago and the Army is just reacting to
the 4 deaths in one Battalion. They should have seen these 24 deaths in January coming. Veterans For Peace
is asking our members to visit with their Congressional Representatives and Senators next week to discuss
these suicides, that the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan contribute to the deaths and how our economy
must transition from a reliance on war spending to human needs spending. We look to Congress to take these
suicides seriously and stop spending our taxes on war. Bring all our troops home now.”

# # #

Founded in 1985, Veterans For Peace is a national organization of men and women veterans of all eras and duty stations
spanning the Spanish Civil War (1936-39), World War II, the Korean, Vietnam, Gulf and current Iraq wars as well as other
conflicts cold or hot. It has chapters in nearly every state in the union and is headquartered in St. Louis, MO. Our
collective experience tells us wars are easy to start and hard to stop and that those hurt are often the innocent. Thus,
other means of problem solving are necessary. Veterans For Peace is an official Non- Governmental Organization (NGO)
represented at the U.N.

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