Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Army suicides surpass combat deaths in January

Have you seen this?

More Soldiers committed suicide last month than were killed in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan combined.

Let that sink in.

Here's an excerpt from the article:

The seven confirmed suicides and 17 other suspected suicides in January were far above the toll for most months....

Usually the vast majority of suspected suicides are eventually confirmed. If that holds true, it would mean that self-inflicted deaths in January surpassed the 16 combat deaths reported last month in all branches of the armed forces in Iraq, Afghanistan and other nations considered part of the global fight against terrorism.

Notice, too, that it's not comparing apples to apples - Army suicides alone surpass all branches' combat deaths. When you add in Marine, Navy, and Air Force suicides, the ratio gets even more alarming.

The Army - and other branches - are looking into this, into the causes, and possible prevention. In fact, Jon is spending all week at Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training, so he can train others in suicide prevention. Of course, no suicide prevention will save everyone. But can we help some?

The best thing to do for this would be to at the very least give Soldiers more time at home; unfortunately, that is not always possible. (It is no coincidence that Army rates are much higher than other branches', and the Army has seen more and longer deployments than any other branch.) I remember Jon telling me after his first tour that the "rule of thumb" is that it takes 2 years to return to normalcy after a deployment (though I would argue that "normal" just changes - you never go to war and come back the same...)

So what happens when Soldiers go for 12 months, are home for 10 (during which they spend time in the field, maybe at a school, at NTC... several months away from home altogether), then deploy for another 12, home for 11 (again, spending much of that away), deploy for another 15? How long does it take then? They have not dealt with emotions from the first tour... let alone the second or third. The divorce rate is higher in the military as well - no wonder, eh?

I tell you all this just to bring to light an oft glossed-over topic in the military. Please pray for our men and women in uniform, pray for our leaders - the hope Christ brings is far more valuable than any prevention program they can find.


Greg said...


I have corresponded with your husband.
How long did your husband have between deployments and how has he dealt with the stress of 2+ years deployed?

Greg Woodard

Rhonda said...

Poignant posting, Sara. Thanks. I don't think we 'civilians' comprehend how taxing it all is.