In the Arena

Military Suicides

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Something amazing has happened here on Swampland today. A great many military people–some downrange, others deployed here at home–have taken the opportunity to have a real conversation about this incredibly painful subject. I’d like to thank all of you for your honesty…And I’d like to make one thing clear to Swampland newcomers: I’ve never served in the military, but I’ve spent time downrange in both Iraq and Afghanistan with our troops–and will do so again, soon–and I’ll repeat what I’ve said here before: this has been the greatest privilege of my experience in journalism.

And to make this even clearer: Given what I’ve seen of our troops–the service, sacrifice and the spirit, the grit and intelligence and flat-out decency under the worst possible conditions–I find these reports of suicide incredibly painful, just heartbreaking. That is why I’m adamant that when we send our best young people overseas, it has to be done for the very best of reasons–to defend our freedom and security. Anything less than that is a disservice to them.

Finally, there were many fine posts in the comments thread, but I’d like to highlight this one. It is absolutely essential reading for members of the military who are feeling stressed and alone. If you are in uniform and having destructive thoughts, please, please seek help…if not for yourself, then for those who love you:

My husband committed suicide as a recruiter 11 years ago. I hope soldiers take the time to think about how suicide affects the family. First, fingers were pointed at our family; we must have done something to make him kill himself. Second, we lost all our support systems. Nobody knew what to say or felt uncomfortable when this happened to us. Third, we did not receive life insurance as it was a suicide and it has been rough financially to this day. Fourth, I gained weight and became unhealthy and suffered from anxiety and depression. When my son reached his teen years he began to suffer from anxiety. When my daughter married, she cannot handle any newlywed argument and gets anxiety. When a soldier takes his life, he passes the shame, guilt, and the burden on to his family. The military is not equipped with helping family members of suicide except the initial death and financial details. Then the family goes home ALONE ,,,,,,trying to cope. Dad is not here anymore to protect his children but the mark of suicide never completely goes away.

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