Seven years later — and five years after invading a country that had no connection to 9/11, didn’t have weapons of mass destruction, and had no ties to Al Qaeda — our soldiers are coming back suffering from PTSD, to find mental health care lacking, and VA employees who avoid giving them the diagnosis they need to get the treatment they need, in the name of lower disability disbursements. No wonder there’s a suicide epidemic among Iraq veterans.
On Sept. 8, an altercation between a 22-year-old Fort Hood soldier and his commanding officer, a 24-year-old lieutenant, ended when the soldier first shot and killed his officer and then turned his gun on himself. Both were assigned to the 1st Cavalry Division, which had returned from a 15-month tour in Iraq in December. The division is currently in training to redeploy back to Iraq this winter for another 12 months — which in all probability will turn out to be the as good an explanation as any for the tragedy.
Then on Sept. 9, a VA report acknowledged that suicide rates for young male Iraq- and Afghanistan-era veterans hit a record high in 2006, the last year for which official records are available. Last week, the Portland Tribune reported that in 2005, the last year for which complete Oregon data has been compiled, 19 Oregon soldiers died in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. That same year, 153 Oregon veterans of all ages, serving in various wars, committed suicide.
After five years of war in Iraq, Marine suicides doubled between 2006 and 2007, and Army suicides are at the highest level since records were first kept in 1980. Reported suicide attempts jumped 500 percent between 2002 and 2007.
The Defense Department says the numbers may be partly attributable to better compliance with reporting requirement.
[Photo via Lion @ Flickr]