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US Veterans kill themselves at a rate of one every 80 minutes.

A Veteran’s Death, the Nation’s Shame

By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF

An American soldier dies every day and a half, on average, in Iraq or Afghanistan. Veterans kill themselves at a rate of one every 80 minutes. More than 6,500 veteran suicides are logged every year — more than the total number of soldiers killed in Afghanistan and Iraq combined since those wars began.

These unnoticed killing fields are places like New Middletown, Ohio, where Cheryl DeBow raised two sons, Michael and Ryan Yurchison, and saw them depart for Iraq. Michael, then 22, signed up soon after the 9/11 attacks.

“I can’t just sit back and do nothing,” he told his mom. Two years later, Ryan followed his beloved older brother to the Army.

When Michael was discharged, DeBow picked him up at the airport — and was staggered. “When he got off the plane and I picked him up, it was like he was an empty shell,” she told me. “His body was shaking.” Michael began drinking and abusing drugs, his mother says, and he terrified her by buying the same kind of gun he had carried in Iraq. “He said he slept with his gun over there, and he needed it here,” she recalls.

Then Ryan returned home in 2007, and he too began to show signs of severe strain. He couldn’t sleep, abused drugs and alcohol, and suffered extreme jitters.

“He was so anxious, he couldn’t stand to sit next to you and hear you breathe,” DeBow remembers. A talented filmmaker, Ryan turned the lens on himself to record heartbreaking video of his own sleeplessness, his own irrational behavior — even his own mock suicide.

One reason for veteran suicides (and crimes, which get far more attention) may be post-traumatic stress disorder, along with a related condition, traumatic brain injury. Ryan suffered a concussion in an explosion in Iraq, and Michael finally had traumatic brain injury diagnosed two months ago.

Estimates of post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury vary widely, but a ballpark figure is that the problems afflict at least one in five veterans from Afghanistan and Iraq. One study found that by their third or fourth tours in Iraq or Afghanistan, more than one-quarter of soldiers had such mental health problems.

Preliminary figures suggest that being a veteran now roughly doubles one’s risk of suicide. For young men ages 17 to 24, being a veteran almost quadruples the risk of suicide, according to a study in The American Journal of Public Health.

Michael and Ryan, like so many other veterans, sought help from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Eric Shinseki, the secretary of veterans affairs, declined to speak to me, but the most common view among those I interviewed was that the V.A. has improved but still doesn’t do nearly enough about the suicide problem.

“It’s an epidemic that is not being addressed fully,” said Bob Filner, a Democratic congressman from San Diego and the senior Democrat on the House Veterans Affairs Committee. “We could be doing so much more.”

To its credit, the V.A. has established a suicide hotline and appointed suicide-prevention coordinators. It is also chipping away at a warrior culture in which mental health concerns are considered sissy. Still, veterans routinely slip through the cracks. Last year, the United States Court of Appeals in San Francisco excoriated the V.A. for “unchecked incompetence” in dealing with veterans’ mental health.

Patrick Bellon, head of Veterans for Common Sense, which filed the suit in that case, says the V.A. has genuinely improved but is still struggling. “There are going to be one million new veterans in the next five years,” he said. “They’re already having trouble coping with the population they have now, so I don’t know what they’re going to do.”

Last month, the V.A.’s own inspector general reported on a 26-year-old veteran who was found wandering naked through traffic in California. The police tried to get care for him, but a V.A. hospital reportedly said it couldn’t accept him until morning. The young man didn’t go in, and after a series of other missed opportunities to get treatment, he stepped in front of a train and killed himself.

Likewise, neither Michael nor Ryan received much help from V.A. hospitals. In early 2010, Ryan began to talk more about suicide, and DeBow rushed him to emergency rooms and pleaded with the V.A. for help. She says she was told that an inpatient treatment program had a six-month waiting list. (The V.A. says it has no record of a request for hospitalization for Ryan.)

“Ryan was hurting, saying he was going to end it all, stuff like that,” recalls his best friend, Steve Schaeffer, who served with him in Iraq and says he has likewise struggled with the V.A. to get mental health services. “Getting an appointment is like pulling teeth,” he said. “You get an appointment in six weeks when you need it today.”

While Ryan was waiting for a spot in the addiction program, in May 2010, he died of a drug overdose. It was listed as an accidental death, but family and friends are convinced it was suicide.

The heartbreak of Ryan’s death added to his brother’s despair, but DeBow says Michael is now making slow progress. “He is able to get out of bed most mornings,” she told me. “That is a huge improvement.” Michael asked not to be interviewed: he wants to look forward, not back.

As for DeBow, every day is a struggle. She sent two strong, healthy men to serve her country, and now her family has been hollowed in ways that aren’t as tidy, as honored, or as easy to explain as when the battle wounds are physical. I wanted to make sure that her family would be comfortable with the spotlight this article would bring, so I asked her why she was speaking out.

“When Ryan joined the Army, he was willing to sacrifice his life for his country,” she said. “And he did, just in a different way, without the glory. He would want it this way.”

“My home has been a nightmare,” DeBow added through tears, recounting how three of Ryan’s friends in the military have killed themselves since their return. “You hear my story, but it’s happening everywhere.”

We refurbish tanks after time in combat, but don’t much help men and women exorcise the demons of war. Presidents commit troops to distant battlefields, but don’t commit enough dollars to veterans’ services afterward. We enlist soldiers to protect us, but when they come home we don’t protect them.

“Things need to change,” DeBow said, and her voice broke as she added: “These are guys who went through so much. If anybody deserves help, it’s them.”

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NATO Promised Karzai To Put American Soldiers On Trial For Burning Koran “As Soon As Possible.

NATO Promised Karzai To Put American Soldiers On Trial For Burning Koran “As Soon As Possible.” Will Obama Prevent This From Happening?

By Jim Campbell

NATO Promised Karzai To Put American Soldiers On Trial For Burning Koran “As Soon As Possible.” Will Obama prevent this from happening?

The recent uproar about US military personnel allegedly burning Qur’an in Afghanistan has resulted in more violence and the demand that NATO put on public trial those who burned them at a NATO base.

After a fifth day of bloody protests over the incident, President Hamid Karzai’s office has asked NATO to proceed with these trials.

According to Military Law established in 1966 this was made permissible. But what is the violation, for the desecration of the enemy’s holy book the sacred Qur’an? Committing such and act would be in violation of Sharia law among its adherents not a violation of military law.

An unfortunate and ill thought gesture but we must never forget following the Qur’an to the letter of its Stone-Age law as Muslims kill fellow Muslims on a daily basis. This is not about stoning, hanging, amputation and dealing with the mandates of Sharia. This is about the killings of Sunni Muslims by Shite Muslims as they are shown currently killing each other in Iraq since U.S. forces left country.

There are 109 verses in the Qur’an dealing with following the will of Allah requiring the death of infidels. This is an absolute violation of Muhammad’s teaching, yet where is the out rage?

Let us not forget that Taliban fighters and al Qaeda thought it perfectly correct to behead the non-combatant Journalists Nick Berg and Daniel Pearl. Where was the outrage when these Somali animals drug the burnt dead decapitated bodies through the streets in Somalia and then displayed them by hanging them from a bridge.

“NATO officials, in response to a request for the trial and punishment of the perpetrators … promised this crime will brought to court as soon as possible,” Karzai’s office said in a statement.

Two things seem necessary. First, we’ve got to change the rules that permit such nonsense at the appropriate level in our government. Secondly, Obama must man up, quit being incompetent and act like a Commander-in-Chief and tell Karzai to cease and desist. If not, Obama already wants an exit strategy. Let him have it and remove our troops now.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it, I’m J.C. and I approve this message
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More U.S. Soldiers Killed Themselves Than Died in Combat in 2010

More U.S. Soldiers Killed Themselves Than Died in Combat in 2010

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Cord Jefferson

For the second year in a row, more American soldiers—both enlisted men and women and veterans—committed suicide than were killed in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Excluding accidents and illness, 462 soldiers died in combat, while 468 committed suicide. A difference of six isn’t vast by any means, but the symbolism is significant and troubling. In 2009, there were 381 suicides by military personnel, a number that also exceeded the number of combat deaths.
Earlier this month, military authorities announced that suicides amongst active-duty soldiers had slowed in 2010, while suicides amongst reservists and people in the National Guard had increased. It was proof, they said, that the frequent psychological screenings active-duty personnel receive were working, and that reservists and guardsmen, who are more removed from the military’s medical bureaucracy, simply need to begin undergoing more health checks. This new data, that American soldiers are now more dangerous to themselves than the insurgents, flies right in the face of any suggestion that things are “working.” Even if something’s working, the system is still very, very broken.

One of the problems hindering the military’s attempt to address soldier suicides is that there’s no real rhyme or reason to what kind of soldier is killing himself. While many suicide victims are indeed afflicted with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after facing heavy combat in the Middle East, many more have never even been deployed. Of the 112 guardsmen who committed suicide last year, more than half had never even left American soil.

“If you think you know the one thing that causes people to commit suicide, please let us know,” Army Vice Chief of Staff General Peter Chiarelli told the Army Times, “because we don’t know what it is.”


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