While most of us will be spending Thanksgiving with our loved ones next week, there are already 140 Army families who will not be spending this year celebrating their time together. Instead, those families will be mourning the loss of one of their own, due to suicide. With 140 suicides already on the books amongst Army families, 2009 is going to the be a record-breaking year for the Army, but not in a way they would like anyone to notice. 2009 will mark the year that the Army has suffered the highest suicide rate ever.
So what does the Army do? Does it recognize the significance of this number with a solemn, sincere statement? No, instead it turns on the full denial PR machine:
“We are almost certainly going to end the year higher than last year,” General Peter Chiarelli, the Army’s vice chief of staff, told a Pentagon briefing.
“This is horrible, and I do not want to downplay the significance of these numbers in any way.” […]
Chiarelli cautioned against generalizing about the causes of the suicides, or assuming links to combat stress on forces stretched thin by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
So in one breath, General Chiarelli says he doesn’t want to downplay the significance of these numbers. In the next, he says we can’t generalize these numbers to any actual military combat missions that soldiers may be actively involved in. Huh?
With all due respect, perhaps General Chiarelli needs to take a course in logic or read more of the prior reports released about this increasing problem within the U.S. military. To not connect the dots between the never-ending wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (did no one study military history and the Russian invasion of Afghanistan?) is to be in a state of irrational and delusional denial. Sorry, General, but such statements make you sorely out of touch with your people and reality.
When you’re threatening court martial to moms who can’t find child care for their 10-month old before deployment and have psychiatrists shooting up your training bases because you don’t acknowledge the inherent conflicts in service amongst your ranks (or your officers don’t have the stomach to discharge someone they clearly saw as problematic), then yes, you have some serious problems. And yes, they are related to the two wars you are currently fighting.
As the article notes, the military’s suicide rate among active-duty soldiers was about 20 per 100,000, nearly double the national U.S. rate of 11.1 suicides per 100,000 people.
There is something significantly wrong there if twice as many people in your service are taking their own lives. This hasn’t always been the case. And rather than trying to whitewash the issue, you should be pulling out all the stops — and all significantly increasing the funding — to figure out how to stop the blood letting.
Read the full article: Army suicides set to hit new high in 2009