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Jul-11-2011 01:20printcomments

Military Suicides and Condolence Letters- What Gives?

The Army drives us crazy, then wonders what happened.

military suicides
Support for your fellow-soldier is encouraged by the Oregon National Guard. Photo by Tim King

(MOLALLA, Ore.) - Yes, the Army is weird. Those giving combat orders rarely have the balls to lead the troops. Any person, I don't care how gung ho he might be, will eventually hit his/her limit of combat terror.

Some, maybe many, will keep going anyhow as a matter of pride, to not lose face or be considered yellow, or cowardly.

These guys are dangerous to the rest of us, whether we are ordered to "join in" or, as a matter of lesser pride, to continue on a suicide mission. Every person has his limit!

It is obvious that this limit is hit and suicide sometimes occurs in combat, in the actual battle zone.

The Department of Defense says 30 active-duty military personnel committed suicide last year in a combat zone- and 265 more occurred outside the battle zone. Those 265 obviously had endured more stress and PTSD than they could continue to tolerate.

The Army in particular screens its recruits to avoid future Army-induced psychiatric problems. Yet, even their own field generals state that about 30% of Combat Veterans will develop PTSD with up to 100% of disability.

If the soldier or Marine is graded a 9 or 10 in PTSD severity he will likely consider suicide and/or even murder. In the meantime, his family, wife, mother, father, children or friends will end up suffering from the same kind of stress with comparable problems.

The New York Times printed an article on July 7 2011 entitled "US to Send Condolences after Suicides in WarZones". For the first time ever, a US President will extend condolences after an active-duty suicide. That is, President Obama will soon be writing "letters of condolence" to families of battle zone suicides only- not to the others.

This is wrong. The non-battle zone suicide victims MUST be treated the same. "They gave their all" for the defense of this country just as much as a front line soldier's death.

Obama should have an understanding for the special circumstances Combat Veterans are up against. PTSD is not reserved for those currently in combat.

The opening of the NYT story stated that "officially memorializing military suicides might encourage other soliders to commit suicide". This must have come from some rear brass who spent most of their time in the officer's club bar.


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COLLI July 12, 2011 10:07 am (Pacific time)

Another excellent article Doc and as usual, correct in every way. Wouldn't it be great if all those running for President must have to be an enlisted man or woman first? Maybe . . . just maybe our enlisted personnel and veterans might be given a fragment of the respect and consideration they deserve!

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Sean Flynn was a photojournalist in Vietnam, taken captive in 1970 in Cambodia and never seen again.

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