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Sep-03-2008 09:54printcomments

Veteran Suicide Epidemic: The Shame of America

Phillip Leveque has spent his life as a Combat Infantryman, Physician Pharmacologist and Toxicologist. After surviving WWII, he went on to treat veterans for years who suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Master Sgt. Marshall Bradshaw, the Army National Guard’s Suicide Prevention Program manager, posts a suicide prevention placard at the National Guard's joint headquarters at Jefferson Plaza One in Arlington, Va., on Aug. 17, 2007. Statistics reveal suicide is the third-leading cause of death among National Guard Soldiers.
Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Erick Studenicka

(MOLALLA, Ore.) - The Portland Tribune and Peter Korn have provided an uncommonly great service to Oregon Veterans and their families in the paper of August 21, 2008. Even the Oregonian Newspaper seems to be pussy wussy about the subject.

Peter Korn points out that the battle Veterans suicide rate is at least twice that of non-Veterans with the rate of young war Veterans between 18 and 24 to be about seven times more than civilians. These are the guys doing the killing and the fighting.

This is far beyond “battle fatigue” or PTSD, the modern term. As a WWII Infantry Scout and point man with PTSD and as a physician who has treated at least 400 Vietnam PTSD battle Veterans, I think I may have the answer. This is shocking even to me. I may even have a partial “cure”.

The Army Infantry wanted 18 to 20 year old robust fighting “men” who would follow orders without questioning and charge a machine gun etc. without hesitation. If anything got in the way, kill it. These are the guys with the highest suicide rate.

I was in an Intelligence and Recon section of 6 privates and a sergeant. We were the Pointmen and Forward Observers. These jobs are the most dangerous and almost suicidal. I wonder at my own survival but I paid the price like any of my fellow pointmen or scouts. Most never got to come home.

My comrades were 18 or 19. I was the “old man”. I was 21 and 22. None of the young guys were able to talk of our mutual experiences. That is PTSD.

The Army Infantry wants its “men” to be macho when attacking or even off duty. Army beer helped but we ended up with a bunch of alcoholics and lung cancer from tobacco. One could not admit fear even to your closest buddy in your foxhole.

I read that the Army has changed. I scarcely believe that, and from what I read in The Tribune the Veterans want nothing to do with the VA Hospital System which doesn't seem to have any idea what or how to treat some 300 thousand PTSD Veterans from the current extravaganza going on in Iraq etc.

Yes, I have PTSD. I earned it the hard way. I still have nightmares and I know that sound I hear in the night is a German Tiger Tank and the loud noise is heavy artillery and as I grab for my rifle and can’t get it I wake up in a sweat.

I got over some of the PTSD by hard work either as a heavy construction millwright or working for two doctor degrees. I still take medications to sleep after 60 plus years from the tanks and the bombs.

According to some, there is something worse than getting seriously wounded or picking up scraps of a buddy. That is killing another human even if he was trying to kill you. If it is women or children it’s even worse.

An Infantry slogan could be KILL OR DIE. That is the basis for PTSD and Veterans Suicide.


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More information on the history of Dr. Leveque can be found in his book, General Patton's Dogface Soldier of WWII about his own experiences "from a foxhole".
Order the book by mail by following this link: Dogface Soldier If you are a World War II history buff, you don't want to miss it.

Watch for more streaming video question and answer segments about medical marijuana with Bonnie King and Dr. Phil Leveque.

Click on this link for other articles and video segments about PTSD and medical marijuana on

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Bwade Chabbif October 14, 2008 3:57 pm (Pacific time)

Regrettably, most Americans today are of the Vic persuasion. They volunteered, they deserve to suffer, we hope that serious harm comes to them, NO help from the VA when they return. This nation has DELIBERATELY CHOSEN to turn its back and close its ears to them for the remainder of their lives.

Carlson September 15, 2008 7:41 am (Pacific time)

Henry et al. It is clear to believe that if these polls existed as you opined, they would be in the public domain, so that a retrieval process from your harddrive would be irrelevant. These so-called national polls would be the exact opposite of other nationally recognized polls, so that would make them even more easy to locate. Good luck finding them...anyway.

Henry Ruark September 14, 2008 8:16 pm (Pacific time)

C-son: Close, but not quite correct. I do not now have in my possession the three I told you were on record here. Fact is some traces of their storage-file exist in eMac, but by uncorrectable situation the content of the file folder is long gone, irreplaceable, including any indication of source originally. My eMac suffering from fault which makes correction uneconomic, adding to error cycle. Awaiting laptop arrival for son's replacement, when will install his one-month new 20-inch IMac here; but that delayed at employer who faced with necessity for 20-such, so awaiting approval from mgmnt. Allathis simply to make sure you understand good faith in my first ref. albeit minor point re issue since other materials show several times more dollars for O than for McC from armed force members. Will seek that one out, not on file in eMac but in paper here somewheres, in huge pile of discarded have now saved more than four reams of once-filed paper, for printout on back of sheets. Still got eight banker boxes of old stuff to review, some with original copy of material for inclusion in book now underway.(Re Op Eds !!) Hope detail and depth here now reassures you of continuing good faith despite our ongoing sometimes-intense dialog. Once set with new IMac, hope to live rest of days via the paperless route !!! Yow !!

Carlson September 13, 2008 9:39 am (Pacific time)

Henry et al. So what you're saying is that you do not have the polls you said you have? I am not surprised, because had they existed they would be in the public record. It is so important for people to realize that you need to source your statements when they are not opinions, but so stated as facts. That is something you would hope that our educational system would grind into our studens, for some, they get it, for some, nope.

Henry Ruark September 12, 2008 3:12 pm (Pacific time)

C-son et al: Re polls I held, as already mea culpa'd to you in another thread, they swalled by my recalcitrant eMac...ol' fumblefingers plain old honest lost 'em.... BUT record not too bad: Shows more than 400 "see with own eyes" set-ups since started volunteer work here, with NOT ONE lost or stolen or otherwise negated. Can you match that ? Most of your stuff never offers us anything but b-b/rub, some of it quite smelly, too... and never, ever any publication record OR any ID-to-check, or any emailer to seek out, OR any street address or other personal-touch...allawhich I share with anyone coming direct to Editor with ID of self. SO what's holdin' you back, sir ? You afraid of this old, ailing, tired geek ? I won't touch you, promise --except with words which you have full standing offer to reciprocate via own Op Ed, 1000-words with documentation from reliable sources, of which we have now produced nearly 500 for S-N. Where's yours, sir ? Ours on record, for all to see, with checkable sources, and listed for look-up in Archives, too. Your ephemeral cheap shots simply float off as hot air, which perhaps is as deserved. But, whether you know-or-not there is no credibility-left as they waft away...

Henry Ruark September 12, 2008 10:52 am (Pacific time)

To all: Since C. raised issue in his response to sts on suicide motivation, here's "see with own eyes" link to give you full background:

Henry Ruark September 12, 2008 10:34 am (Pacific time)

C. re 9/8 6:04: Again, sir, your ignorance and lack of understandings of reality overcome any common sense you may have had once. sts re suicide recognizes the realities of our culture, and yours re other races and cultures represents profound lack of sensitivity as well as equally deep ignorance of the cultures involved. For them, what killing they may have done represents a simple form of self-defense. Surely you do not intend to deprive them of that human privilege --OR do you ? Prime motivation for the suicides among our vets is their realization that what they were forced into was not for the reasons advanced by those doing the forcing. Ask any psychiatrist re that point and see what you hear. Are we the only nation on Earth allowed to defend vs preemptive attack ? Did we in fact attack preemptively ? We did, as now fully on the public record, open to your access as for all of us. If you do not understand the motivations involved for the others you name, then that simply demonstrates your further lack of history and cultural understandings. Suggest you seek some remedy for these glaring deficiencies if you continue here...I feel embarrassed for you as this continues, and join sts in her insightful statement.

Henry Ruark September 12, 2008 10:24 am (Pacific time)

ex-J. et al: Even worse than withholding our dollars, sir, is fact far too many withhold attention and action-demanded as strong responsible citizens in a democracy that dies without that participation. We fall for gumph and repetitive golightly content in media which should inform and assist in full issue-and problem understandings, pat of their Constitutional obligation since First Amendment places them in full protected status and thus builds profit-ratios running two/three times other business areas. Pogo had it right:"We has met the enemy, and he is US !"

Carlson September 12, 2008 8:47 am (Pacific time)

Dane Elder good luck getting that update. I have been waiting for some mysterious national polls that show Obama is the number one candidate for our active duty military and veterans. Seems this poll would be in a researchable database somewhere? When one makes a claim, then back it up, I I wrong?

ex-Joe September 11, 2008 5:24 pm (Pacific time)

How can anyone believe we support our troops if we STOP supporting them when they get home? Are we a bunch of retards or what? The truth is we should be ashamed, we don't put our money where our mouth is. Shallow patriotism, to say the least. Suicide is not a disease, it is caused by an uncaring, thoughtless and selfish society who wants somebody else to be responsible, push the job or the blame on to someone else, then take the credit if things turn out ok. Great character trait for we Americans. Embarrassing!

Henry Ruark September 11, 2008 4:36 pm (Pacific time)

D.E. et al: You will find some information on that in the article I cited, sir. No special studies I know at moment, but will seek, and report if found. Thank you for thoughtful and civil participation.

Dane Elder September 10, 2008 5:08 am (Pacific time)

There is one more wrinkle to the suicide story--and I am not sure what the numbers are for this: add to the pain of coming back from war and being snagged in a system that is so backlogged that former soldiers, their spouses and widows, and their dependants must wait months--in some cases even years to get their pay started. They still may have debt incurred when they were well and their pay was not messed up due to the delays--and you probably have an overlapping cause for the increase in suicides. Any studies on that?

Henry Ruark September 8, 2008 4:53 pm (Pacific time)

To all: "There is no flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people for a purpose which is unattainable." : U.S. historian Howard Zinn, 1993

Henry Ruark September 8, 2008 4:08 pm (Pacific time)

To all: Here's extremely and timely "see with own eyes" making my Comment re culpability all that relevant RIGHT NOW: Published on Monday, September 8, 2008 by Associated Press Videos Show Dead Afghan Children After US Raid by Fisnik Abrashi KABUL, Afghanistan - The bodies of at least 10 children and many more adults covered in blankets and white shrouds appear in videos obtained by The Associated Press on Monday, lending weight to Afghan and U.N. allegations that a U.S.-led raid last month killed more civilians than the U.S. reported. ----- The very graphic videos are easily accessed via I'Net, NOT possible to include here.

Henry Ruark September 8, 2008 4:01 pm (Pacific time)

To all: See current (9/15) issue of The NATION cover-feature "How the VA Abandon Our Vets", entirely relevant to Dr. L's major points here.

Henry Ruark September 8, 2008 11:14 am (Pacific time)

Del: Your Comments here, sir, show growing resentment vs anyone you choose to meanly characterize via your continue b/b-rumblings. To me that's very revealing of certain political attitudes all too reminscent of those we encountered from Hitler and his colleagues. Content-analyses applied confirm that deplorable state. IF you dare, sir, ID self to Editor and let's proceed direct with further dialog and background, sparing those who wish to share-and-learn here from your kind of eroding crud and contempt-wrapped kibbling.

Tim King September 7, 2008 11:00 am (Pacific time)

Doc, I am seeing many things over here in Iraq right now and had a pretty bad experience last night that I will discuss with you when I come home. I fear that unless people have a far-reaching and open mind, it is fairly hard to comprehend what the life of an infantryman really entails. I want you to know that I have been interviewing Marines and soldiers all over Iraq about PTSD and what they are doing to offset problems down the road. You have taught me a great deal sir and I am anxious to come home and debrief with you. There are certainly good aspects to what is going on over here, and they are mirrored by equally tragic problems. I am fortunate to be able to cover the war for a few weeks and get out of dodge. Talk to you soon, and thanks for keeping up the good fight for Americans who have the misfortune of serving over here.

G/2-3 September 7, 2008 5:45 am (Pacific time)

your article is appreciated Doctor Leveque,with all due respect I am glad you have the courage to expose it as well as your personal stake in the matter. I just read today that the suicide rate for returning combat vets is going to surpass last years record of 115, the year has four more months to go.We've got to take care of each other,the way it's supposed to be. This venue is part of that.

Sallie September 6, 2008 2:26 pm (Pacific time)

I pray and keep hoping that there will be no more wars. But as long as we keep electing soulless, war mongers who use war for self profit and political gain, then the human devastation will continue. As a country and as humans, we must stop this insanity. Why do we allow without question, bad and evil people to make decisions that causes such mass devastation to so many? To our brave military, you are not to blame. I pray that you will find peace. Do not give up hope, there is help out there.

Vic September 6, 2008 11:51 am (Pacific time)

Actually, "del" my beliefs were shaped by my religious upbringing. I was raised to try to follow the teachings of someone else that I am sure you and most military types despise, Jesus Christ. Im sure in your mind he was a rabble rouser and a terrorist, and got what he deserved. Think about it....can you imagine Jesus "clearing" houses full of sleeping kids? Or firing shells into desely populated towns? Or dropping 2000lb bombs on villages? You military types embody EVIL, as the Bible defines it. Am I against self defense? No. Am I against going around the world terrorizing and killing people for profit?? Yes.

Del. September 6, 2008 7:04 am (Pacific time)

Vic here's a flash for you: Veterans and active military do not care about your "zero sympathy", or anything else about you. Clearly you are anti-veteran/military and the time may come when karma will set you straight.

Josh September 5, 2008 7:05 pm (Pacific time)

I had no idea how bad this epidemic was. I can't imagine how hard PTSD is on those who fight against it, but I pray that you and the rest of those struggling will find comfort.

Henry Ruark September 5, 2008 10:22 am (Pacific time)

To all: Dr. L's perceptive, insightful and sensitive report emphasizes the very heavy after-return vet medical costs sure to accrue --the root of cost estimates running to SIX TRILLIONS, in extended report from Stiglitz, Nobel- winning economist, et al, as already reported here.

Vic September 5, 2008 7:29 am (Pacific time)

It must be tough to be a naive fool and think you are a force for good, then discover that you were one of the "bad guys"....all so corporations can make money. Ignorance has a price...and I have ZERO sympathy for people who gleefully sign up to kill other people.

C. September 4, 2008 6:34 pm (Pacific time)

sts you want to provide a source for that statement. Because if that's true millions of Chinese, North Koreans, North Vietnamese, Viet Cong, Taliban, run of the mill terrorist's, etc. , etc. , would have committed suicide by now, and world peace would be upon us. Thanks

sts September 3, 2008 12:45 pm (Pacific time)

I have learned that most veterans commit suicide when they find out that they killed people based on lies. not for freedom and the constitution.

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