Sunday, April 27, 2008

Suicide death of Spc. Chris Dana causes change in Montana National Guard

Montana Guard confronts post-combat stress head-on in wake of suicide
Tribune Projects Editor

HELENA — Montana's National Guard is becoming a model of how to help service members adjust to post-combat stress.

"Montana has gone beyond the level of other states in the country, and I applaud that," said Capt. Joan Hunter, a U.S. Public Service officer who was recently designated the director of psychological health for the National Guard Bureau in Washington, D.C.

"They saw an emergency need, studied the problems and make some significant improvements," Hunter said Friday.

State Adjutant General Randy Mosley said that the effort stems from a former Montana soldier who didn't get the help he needed and who killed himself a year ago.

"We want to make sure we're doing everything we can to help our people and their families pick up the pieces for the problems that may have begun during their deployment in Iraq," Mosley said last week.

"The Guard has done an unbelievable job in changing," said Matt Kuntz, a Helena attorney and stepbrother of the late Spc. Chris Dana, who killed himself March 4, 2007. At the time, Dana was having trouble handling weekend drills after returning from combat in Iraq. He was given a less-than-honorable discharge and then shot himself a few days later.

"It takes a lot for a big organization that does a lot of things right to look for what they did wrong and address those flaws," Kuntz said. "I'm really impressed with what they've done."
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