Suicides in the U.S. military have been climbing, reaching a record high in 2012 when 349 soldiers took their own lives, about one every 25 hours. By comparison, 301 U.S. soldiers died in active combat in 2012, marking the third time in four years that the number of military suicides has surpassed the number of deaths in combat of U.S. soldiers. The figures also do not include the 110 “pending” reported suicides that are still under investigation by medical examiners. In veterans, the numbers are far worse: about one veteran every 65 minutes takes his or her own life, according to a new investigation by the Department of Veterans Affairs which examined suicide data from 1999 to 2010.
~ from Soldier Suicides by Alyssa Rohricht ~
When soldiers are killed by their own troops or allies, it is called death by "friendly fire." But what does one call it when a soldier kills him or herself? Since many of these soldiers are bedeviled by guilt and/or the demons of war, might we call it death by not so friendly fire?
Why are soldiers and veterans killing themselves at alarming rates? Has this problem always been around and we are simply more aware of it? Rohricht offers a possible clue.
Perhaps we could examine the incredibly long and repeated deployments by U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. During World War II, The Christian Science Monitor reports, the average infantryman in the South Pacific spent about 40 days in combat over four years. That’s compared to today when about 107,000 Army soldiers, or 20% of the active-duty force, have been deployed three or more times since 2001. Over 50,000 have done four or more tours.
I think most sane people will agree that war is hell. What does it say about our country that we keep sending our troops to hell and back so many times?