Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Veteran Suicides Apocalypse Now

Wounded Times
Kathie Costos
January 14, 2015

The word Apocalypse has been flooding my brain lately when I read reports about suicides tied to the military. The rate of veterans committing suicide is double the civilian population with the majority of them being over 50. Then there is the other figure of young veterans committing suicide at triple the rate of their civilian peers.
An apocalypse (Ancient Greek: ἀποκάλυψις apocálypsis, from ἀπό and καλύπτω meaning 'un-covering'), translated literally from Greek, is a disclosure of knowledge, i.e., a lifting of the veil or revelation, although this sense did not enter English until the 14th century.  In religious contexts it is usually a disclosure of something hidden. In the Book of Revelation (Greek Ἀποκάλυψις Ἰωάννου, Apocalypsis Ioannou), the last book of the New Testament, the revelation which John receives is that of the ultimate victory of good over evil and the end of the present age, and that is the primary meaning of the term, one that dates to 1175. Today, it is commonly used in reference to any prophetic revelation or so-called End Time scenario, or to the end of the world in general.
There are reasons it has gotten this bad but it is almost as if it went from crisis to epidemic to Apocalypse unnoticed by the general public. The Apocalypse for veterans is now.
"In a war there are many moments for compassion and tender action. There are many moments for ruthless action - what is often called ruthless - what may in many circumstances be only clarity, seeing clearly what there is to be done and doing it, directly, quickly, awake, looking at it." Willard, Apocalypse Now
One of the first posts out of over 23,000 of them, I wondered why the press wasn't reporting on the suicides. After all, you'd think they would matter enough to merit some kind of investigation. I was putting together a video on suicides and found over 400 of their stories way back in 2007. Greg Mitchell at least tried to.
Why Isn't the Press on a Suicide Watch?
You'd never know that at least 3% of all American deaths in Iraq are due to self-inflicted wounds. And that doesn't include the many vets who have killed themselves after returning home.
By Greg Mitchell
NEW YORK (August 13, 2007) -- Would it surprise you to learn that according to official Pentagon figures, at least 118 U.S. military personnel in Iraq have committed suicide since April 2003? That number does not include many unconfirmed reports, or those who served in the war and then killed themselves at home (a sizable, if uncharted, number).

While troops who have died in "hostile action" -- and those gravely injured and rehabbing at Walter Reed and other hospitals -- have gained much wider media attention in recent years, the suicides (about 3% of our overall Iraq death toll) remain in the shadows.

The heartache was just as real as when I was researching suicide among Vietnam veterans. It was like a blister swelling, bursting, healing and then surfacing all over again. It was understandable the reports showed between 150,000 and 200,000 Vietnam veterans had committed suicide considering nothing was really being done until they pushed for the research to be done. Chuck Dean played a huge part in investigating that under-reported casualty count of the Vietnam War.

The thing is, by the time the reports of Afghanistan and Iraq veterans came out, no one was looking back at what had been done, learned and then didn't know what was undone. That pissed me off. Too many people, including Chuck Dean, figured out exactly what worked and they started to do it way back in 1984. Point Man International Ministries was doing peer-support, veteran to veteran in Out Posts and family to family in Home Fronts. No huge donations or commercials whining for more money. They didn't need much money, and frankly, what little they needed, they took out of their own pockets because no one was lining up to write them checks to even cover time and travel.

It was as it is today, side by side peer support from one soul showing another how to make peace and heal so they can live better lives. Nothing fancy but then again, veterans don't need anything fancy or expensive. They just need what works.

Anyway, so I was reading and remembering all the reports, all the cries for help, all the promises made to families and watching more and more suicides each year to the point where I could no longer assure families things were changing for the better. Can you imagine how hard it is to talk to a veteran willing to do whatever he had to do so that he could heal and help other veterans knowing what he'd be up against?

It wasn't a matter of just helping him find peace with what war put him through but I had to help him find peace to live with what the DOD did to him while telling the American people what they were doing for the troops. I figured sooner or later someone would notice that it was all pure bullshit.

They didn't. The military kept telling us that things would change and they were addressing suicides.

Congress did a great performance acting like they understood it as they had family after family telling their stories as the cameras rolled and reporters caught every tear filled testimony. They made their speeches and pushed to have the bills with their names on them, then patted themselves on the back as if they did something worthy of what those families told them.

They didn't.

The DOD came out with Battlemind in 2006 but even though suicides went up, they pushed it.
‘Battlemind’ Prepares Soldiers for Combat, Returning Home
By Susan Huseman
Special to American Forces Press Service
STUTTGART, Germany, Jan. 3, 2008 – Every soldier headed to Iraq and Afghanistan receives “Battlemind” training designed to help them deal with combat experiences, but few know the science behind the program.

Consequently, Dr. Amy Adler, a senior research psychologist with the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research’s U.S. Army Medical Research Unit Europe, in Heidelberg, Germany, visited Patch Barracks here, breaking down the program, which is a system of support and intervention.

The Battlemind system includes separate pre-deployment training modules for soldiers, unit leaders, health care providers and spouses. Psychological debriefings are given in theater and upon redeployment. There are also a post-deployment module for spouses and several post-deployment modules for soldiers.

Not every soldier who deploys is at risk for mental health problems; the main risk factor is the level of combat experienced, Adler explained to her audience of medical, mental health and family support professionals.

Army studies show the greater the combat exposure a soldier encounters, the greater the risk for mental health problems, including post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anger and relationship problems. When soldiers first return home, they may not notice any problems; sometimes it takes a few months for problems to develop.

They pushed Comprehensive Soldier Fitness after that and by 2009 the DOD announced this.
Army Suicide Rate Increases Five Straight Years
By Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Dec. 11, 2009 – The rate of soldier suicides this year exceeded the 2008 total with 147 reports through November, marking the fifth consecutive year the service’s suicide rate has increased. In November, 12 potential suicides were reported among the active-duty Army, all of which still are under investigation. In addition, two potential suicides were reported for November among reserve-component soldiers not serving on active duty. For October, three of the 16 active-duty suicides reported now are confirmed, according to a statement released by the Army yesterday.

For 2009, 45 reports of possible active-duty suicides remain unconfirmed, along with 30 of the 71 reported suicides in the reserve components, the statement said.

The Army is working to combat its rising suicide rate through the recently launched Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program, the Suicide Prevention Task Force and its five-year research partnership with the National Institute of Mental Health.

Hmm, did they ever have to explain any of this? Did congress?

Nope the years went by and more and more of the same went on and on.

General Raymond Odierno told the Huffington Post exactly what he thought during Suicide Prevention Month in September of 2013.
"First, inherently what we do is stressful. Why do I think some people are able to deal with stress differently than others? There are a lot of different factors. Some of it is just personal make-up. Intestinal fortitude. Mental toughness that ensures that people are able to deal with stressful situations."
Over the years I've talked to more veterans and heard too many stories to ever believe the General in charge would still be talking like this, but he did. Repulsive as that statement was, it turned out that he also had trouble with families.
"But it also has to do with where you come from. I came from a loving family, one who gave lots of positive reinforcement, who built up psychologically who I was, who I am, what I might want to do. It built confidence in myself, and I believe that enables you to better deal with stress. It enables you to cope more easily than maybe some other people."
The trouble is, this is what I remember. I remember parents like Jason Scheuerman had.
"What the soldier's father, Chris, would learn about his son's final days would lead the retired Special Forces commando, who teaches at Fort Bragg, to take on the very institution he's spent his life serving — and ultimately prompt an investigation by the Army Inspector General's office."
"For Jason Scheuerman, death came on July 30, 2005, around 5:30 p.m., about 45 minutes after his first sergeant told the teary-eyed private that if he was intentionally misbehaving so he could leave the Army, he would go to jail where he would be abused."
He is not alone. At least 152 U.S. troops have taken their own lives in Iraq and Afghanistan since the two wars started, contributing to the Army's highest suicide rate in 26 years of keeping track. For the grieving parents, the answers don't come easily or quickly.
Army Suicides Highest in 26 Years
May 4, 2007
Jan Kemp, a VA associate director for education who works on mental health, has estimated there are up to 1,000 suicides a year among veterans within the VA system, and as many as 5,000 a year among all living veterans.
August 15, 2007
The report, obtained by The Associated Press ahead of its scheduled release Thursday, found there were 99 confirmed suicides among active duty soldiers during 2006, up from 88 the previous year and the highest since the 102 suicides in 1991 at the time of the Persian Gulf War.

Then as bad as all that was the belief shared by the General was apparently spread throughout the military as we discovered with the reporting done on Warrior Transition Units and how they treated soldiers being "helped" with PTSD. It was a joint investigation by the Dallas Morning News and NBC called Injured Heroes Broken Promises which you should really read if you want to know why we're seeing more and more surviving combat but not surviving when the DOD no longer has to count them.

We are either determined to repeat history or pretend just enough to let us go to sleep at night feeling as if we did something today. The question is, how does it feel to read another article about another veteran repeating the history we left for them?

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