Military Suicides at Record Highs ( I guess it’s alright)

photoThe horror of war is felt on and of the battlefield. Sometimes through people you do not know.

While researching the Department Of Defense ordered nationwide halt to military recruitment, I found a Houston Chronicle article describing the suicide of SGT Nils Aron Andersson. He was the last of 4 Army Recruiters in the same Recruitment Battalion to commit suicide in a three year period. Andersson was a 2 tour Iraq veteran. On March 5, 2007, after around 3 months of dating he married Cassy Walton. The next day March 6, 2007 he killed himself with a gunshot to his temple. Cassy found his body and tried to give him CPR. Diagnosed as having a bipolar disorder; Cassy killed herself the next day March 7, 2007.

The story is as sad as they come. Unfortunately the events that led to this tragedy are not uncommon in the lives of far too many military families. I want to mention 3 items from his story.

First: Andersson’s father describing fears and moments of dread thinking about the safety of his son in Iraq. I know it well. Now he faces his son’s death here at home. His words; “Because the only thing I’m sure of in this world is the father’s supposed to die before the children.” are true for all parents. It is one of my few fears.

Second: The Officers and Senior NCOs in his Battalion sucked. No, much stronger words are needed. They are FUCKED UP!!!

From article:
If recruiters failed to sign up enough prospects, their commanders told them they were failures, Rodriguez said. “They tell you, ‘That’s why your buddy in Iraq doesn’t have a full battalion, because you’re letting him down,’ “he said.

The stress took its toll. Back in Iraq, Rodriguez had nightmares about his time recruiting in Houston.

“The pressure recruiting puts on you wears you down so badly,” he said. “We often said that we’d rather be in Iraq than recruiting. It’s true.”

Having nightmares while in Iraq about recruiting in Houston is fucked up. Of course a Command like that does not care about troops. Thus, even though Andersson’s superiors were notified of his PTSD, he was not properly monitored nor Command motivated to continue with treatment.

FYI: The Army Times article I reference below reports that the investigating office has recommended disciplinary action against Battalion and Brigade level leaders. What kind of action is yet to be seen. I think at least the punishment for manslaughter is in order.

Third: this happened nearly 2 years ago and the DOD is just now taking this stand down action.

Army Times

Army Secretary Pete Geren has ordered a stand-down of the Army’s entire recruiting force and a review of almost every aspect of the job is underway in the wake of a wide-ranging investigation of four suicides in the Houston Recruiting Battalion.

Notice it says wake of a wide ranging investigation and not in the wake of the four suicides. Is it a coincidence that the stand down comes at the same time the Army is scrambling to deal with an epidemic of 24 suicides in the month of January? Now they are trying to cover their ass all over the place. I am really hurt right now and mad.

They had to see this coming.

From NBC’s Courtney Kube
Just one week after the Army announced that more U.S. soldiers killed themselves in 2008 than in any other year on record, the U.S. Army announced today that they had 24 possible suicides during the month of January


Published: January 29, 2009
Suicides among soldiers in 2008 rose for the fourth year in a row, reaching the highest level in nearly three decades, Army officials said Thursday

Army Suicides in January Outnumbered Combat Deaths

By Bruce E. Levine, AlterNet. Posted February 11, 2009.

The U.S. Army recently reported that for the month of January in 2009, the number of soldiers who committed suicide surpassed the number of soldiers who were killed in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. While there were 16 U.S. combat deaths, the Army believes that there were 24 suicides (the Army has confirmed seven suicides, and it believes that investigators will confirm an additional 17 other deaths as suicides). The number of suicides in January 2009 is more than five times as many as the total in January 2008.

And what about Cassy? It was known that she was bipolar and suicidal. She should not have been left alone for a prolonged length of time. She easily bought the hand gun she used to take her life. Does anyone care for anyone?

So much pain.

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About Michael T. McPhearson

Currently Michael is executive director of Veterans For Peace and co-chair of the Don't Shoot Coalition, A Saint Louis based coalition that formed in the aftermath of Michael Brown's police killing death in Ferguson, MO. From August 2010 to September 2013, Michael worked as the National Coordinator with United For Peace and Justice. He is a former board member of Veterans For Peace and as well as Executive Director from 2005 to 2010. He works closely with the Newark based People’s Organization for Progress and the Saint Louis centered Organization for Black Struggle. Michel also publishes the expressing his views on war and peace, politics, human rights, race and other things. Michael also launched website as an effort to change the discourse and ignite a new conversation about Dr. Martin Luther King’s message and what it means to live in just and peaceful communities.