Killing Themselves And Others For God And Country

Reports are now emerging about an alarming rise in the suicide rates in the Army -- and a similar increase in the Marines.

Julian E. Barnes and Jia-Rui Chong posted this piece today in the LA Times:

Army sees sharp rise in suicide rate
It's the highest in 30 years. Military officials say in a report that prevention efforts are inadequate.

An excerpt from the piece:

It marked the first time the Army rate has exceeded the national suicide rate for the corresponding population group -- 19.5 per 100,000 -- since the Pentagon began systematically tracking suicides nearly 30 years ago.

The 2008 figure does not include 15 additional deaths under investigation that officials suspect were suicides.

A similar piece appears in the Mercury News from John Simerman of the Contra Costa Times with the following title:

Here's an excerpt from there:

"This is not business as usual. We need to move quickly to do everything we can to reverse this very disturbing number of suicides," said Gen. Peter Chiarelli, the Army vice chief of staff. "We need to help our soldiers and their families understand that it's OK to ask for help."

Defense officials have not released overall suicide statistics in the military, but the numbers for Marines also reportedly rose in 2008. Army doctors said that troubles with intimate relationships, poor job performance, alcohol or drug abuse sparked some of the suicides. Stress from long deployments and multiple tours can play a role, often straining relationships at home; some soldiers have killed themselves after returning home and receiving new deployment orders, the Army confirmed.

According to Simerman's piece, officials have also stated that most of the suicides have occurred during initial deployments, but that's hardly comforting -- and certainly not an excuse. Again from the Simerman piece:

Overall, the suicides were split about evenly among deaths in Afghanistan or Iraq, soldiers who had returned from deployment and those who never deployed.

In October, the Army announced it would embark on a $50 million study with the National Institute of Mental Health — the largest suicide study ever by the military. On Thursday it announced plans to step up its suicide training regimen, and ordered a "Stand Down" for suicide outreach beginning Feb. 15 that is designed to reach every soldier. However, the Army already has added hundreds of psychiatrists and psychologists and pushed videos and training through the ranks, with no sign of a turnaround.

It's taken a long time for the existence and seriousness of PTSD to gain official recognition; initially, under Donald Rumsfeld, anyone suffering such acute symptoms were expected to "man up" and soldier onward. Deployment turnaround times, durations and number of deployments were adjusted to help keep the number of boots on the ground manageable for former President Bush's pet war, a war that former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and former Vice President Dick Cheney were strident supporters of -- according to some sources, since the day the Bush Administration first took office, and at the very least during the first few days following September 11th, when Rumsfeld was quoted as saying that there enough targets in Afghanistan so they'd have to hit Iraq too:

"They were talking about Iraq on the evening of 9/11," Clarke says. "I remember Rumsfeld saying, `Yeah, well, we can invade Afghanistan, but that's not enough. There's not enough targets in Afghanistan.' They wanted to use 9/11 as an excuse to implement their preconceived plans to invade Iraq."

Talk about having some grand delusions and being mixed up about the purpose and use of military force.

And now, our soldiers pay the price, but they are not alone in their pain or suffering. Their families, their fellow soldiers in the field, the forces engaged on both sides of the battlefield and finally the public citizenry, both foreign and domestic, who serve as the ultimate witnesses to their pain and to our failure, as a nation, to provide adequate leadership to our troops and our people.

It's good that this is, now, finally starting to gain some real attention. It would be better if the long period of denial while the policies were being changed and the soldiers and nation were being betrayed and lied to had never occurred.

We have a new President. We have a new Administration. We are in the process of finishing up the appointments for that Administration and in seating the final members of the new Congress, amid constant Republican obstructionism and politicization. We are taking steps forward to resolve the deceptive practices, the lies and corruption of the preceding Administration and the preceding complicity of the Congress that protected and supported it.

We must push to finish this transition and let the new Administration hear our voices and concerns, so that we can help quell the pain and suffering by bringing open, transparent and decisive relief across the many afflicted and damaged areas of the nation; our troops need to be among the very first items on the agenda.

The politics of the last 8 years need to be brought low and buried deeply in a compost heap; investigations and accountability are one way to ensure that these events, which are simply mutated and evolved reincarnations of past corrupt Administrations -- in some cases shepherded by some of the very same players -- never rise again to terrorize the nation and paralyze the good people herein with fear and threat of persecution.

More than simply in response to cries of "for God and Country," we must stand firm and resolve to ensure that our nation, our soldiers, our leaders and our people are held to and provided with a higher standard: the rule of law, set in a strong Constitutional foundation, tempered by a Bill of Rights and guided not by a religious morality but a secular ethics that appeals and applies regardless of race, religion, politics or personal self-aggrandizing principles.

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References

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Search the ePluribus Media Community site for more reports about the Army suicide rate.

Search the ePluribus Media Community site for more information about PTSD.

Search the ePluribus Media Journal site for more information about PTSD.

PTSD Resources

Help lines (from Ilona Meagher’s ptsdcombat blog which provides the latest information as well as a wealth of data on resources)

Veteran-to-Veteran Peer Counseling
1-877-VET2VET

Nat'l Veterans Foundation
Help Line
1-888-777-4443 (M-F 9-9 Pacific)
Email help also available from NVF
Military OneSource
DOD contracted
1-800-342-9647 in USA (24/7)
1-800-3429-6477 outside of USA
Wounded Soldier and Family Hotline - Army-provided assistance
1-800-984-8523
VA Suicide Hotline
1-800-273-TALK (8255)
NY/NJ Veterans VA Nurses Helpline
1-800-877-6976
Gulf Coast VA Medical Center Hot Line
1-800-507-457
Suicide Hotlines
1-888-649-1366
1-800-SUICIDE
1-800-784-2433
Suicide Help Online
http://www.hopeline.com
http://www.spanusa.org
Miles Foundation
- Domestic Violence, Child Abuse, Child Sexual Abuse, Sexual Assault by Military Personnel
1-877-570-0688
National Coalition for Homeless Vets
1-800-VET-HELP
Veterans of the Vietnam War
1-800-843-8626
VA Office of the Inspector General
To Report Suspected Wrongdoing in VA Programs and Operations
Call the OIG Hotline
(800) 488-8244

 

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The ePluribus Media PTSD Timeline is an ongoing project documenting reports of PTSD from vets in a searchable format.  It can also be purchased for use and reference. Ilona Meagher's PTSD Combat Blog is also chock-full of information.

...to DailyKos.

Support the troops in a way that means something -- bring justice to bear on the injustices done to them, and to our nation, by the actions and inactions of the former Administration and all their supporters.