Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Suicides, PTSD and the fallen

From the invasion of Afghanistan until last summer, the U.S. military had lost 761 soldiers in combat there. But a higher number in the service — 817 — had taken their own lives over the same period. The surge in suicides, which have risen five years in a row, has become a vexing problem for which the Army's highest levels of command have yet to find a solution despite deploying hundreds of mental-health experts and investing millions of dollars. And the elephant in the room in much of the formal discussion of the problem is the burden of repeated tours of combat duty on a soldier's battered psyche.

The above is the opening paragraph to Mark Thompson's "Is the U.S. Army Losing Its War on Suicide?" (Time magazine) and also exploring the story are Bob Woodruff and Michael Murray (ABC News) who move beyond the statistics to zoom in on families:

The stories of these two families, seemingly on the same path, diverged at the depths of despair. One soldier reached out for help, the other reached for a trigger.
"I never thought it would come to this," Shannon Galloway said.
Six weeks after coming home to Michigan, Chris Galloway stepped outside the family home and fired a single shot.
"Daddy got very sick in Afghanistan, which he did," Shannon Galloway said she told her son. "We said it was Afghanistan sickness ... and it made his heart stop. And he went to heaven."
Cherry-Haus said she knows how close her family came to a similar fate.
"I almost committed suicide," her husband said. "I had a plan and everything."

Keiffer Wilhelm took his own life August 4, 2009 while serving in Iraq after being targeted with bullying and hazing. Robert L. Smith (Cleveland Plain Dealer) reports the last 'action' against the four who tormented Keiffer has taken place and no one received "serious punishment" for their actions towards Keiffer. Keffier's step-mother, Shelly Wilhelm, is quoted stating, "All he did was get a slap on the wrist. We don't know what to say because we just don't understand. He was the platoon sargent. He was Kieffer's direct command. It doesn't make sense. I feel like the Army has let us down again." She's referring to Staff Sgt Bob Clements and the Mansfield News Journal reports he could have been sentenced to 25 years in prison; however, he "has been reprimanded and demoted" after being found guilty "of obstructing justice". The military pretends it wants to take suicide seriously. If it wanted to send the message that it does, it would not only have to make serious efforts to help those suffering, it would have to take suicide seriously when it happens and not rush to sweep it under the rug -- especially in such a way that appears to blame the victim. Chris Roberts (El Paso Times) adds:

Clements "just walks away," Shane Wilhelm, the private's father, said in an interview Tuesday. "I feel completely let down by the Army."
Wilhelm said he still hoped the general in the chain of command overseeing the court-martial would throw out the verdict.
Clements remains with the brigade, Caggins said. The 4-1 Armored is returning from a 12-month deployment in Iraq, where it was training Iraqi security forces.
The court-martial was held at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait. Caggins, contacted late Tuesday in Iraq, did not know when the verdict was delivered. Wilhelm said it was Sunday.
Two of the other accused soldiers were convicted on cruelty charges. The fourth offered to leave the military instead of facing a court-martial and was discharged.

Meanwhile the Albany Times Union notes that GE has received a government grant of $2.7 million to study PTSD. Wow. Sell the illegal war via MSNBC, be a defense contractor on top of that and then have the US government ask you to help find solutions to a problem from the war you 'brought to life.' Excuse me, "ask you to help"? Pay. Pay, you to help.

Wednesday, April 7th, Lt Robert W. Collins and Spc William Anthony Blout died serving in Iraq. John Munford (The Citizen) reports that the 24-year-old Collins will have a procession in Tyrone on Thursday and outlines the route and notes:

Lt. Collins is survived by his parents, Lt. Col. (ret.) Burkitt “Deacon” Collins and Lt. Col. (ret.) Sharon L.G. Collins along with Nicole Williams, his childhood sweetheart and girlfriend of eight years among other extended family members. The family’s church is Hopewell United Methodist in Tyrone.
The family will receive friends Friday evening from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Parrott Funeral Home and Crematory in Fairburn, and online condolences may be made at
There will be an opportunity for citizens to honor Lt. Collins during the procession following the funeral. The procession will leave New Hope Baptist Church in Fayetteville on New Hope Road; south on Ga. Highway 85 through Fayetteville; and west on Ga. Highway 54 west through Peachtree City. Once in Coweta County the procession will continue on Ga. Highway 34, then the Hwy. 34 bypass to the gravesite on Roscoe Road.
Lt. Collins will be escorted at all processions by motorcycles from the Patriot Guard of Georgia, a group dedicated to honoring fallen American heroes.
The family is asking donations in Lt. Collins’ memory to be made to the 1LT Robert Wilson Collins Patriot Spirit Scholarship, c/o Bank of Georgia, 100 Westpark Drive, Peachtree City, Ga. 30269.

WDAM notes that 21-year-old Anthony Blout will have a procession tomorrow from Pinebelt Regional Airport to the Moore Funeral Home in Petal MS and that: "The funeral will be Saturday at 11:30 a.m. at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Oak Grove. Burial will follow at Highland Cemetery in Hattiesburg." The Clarion-Ledger adds, "Family members said Blount was three weeks away from a short leave that would bring him home for the birth of his child - a daughter - to be named Avery." Tim Doherty (Hattiesburg American) explains, "Along with his parents and two sisters, Blount is survived by his wife, Amanda, who is eight months pregnant with a daughter the couple decided to name Avery."

The following community sites have updated since yesterday evening:

From IVAW, we'll note this:

Second Member of Company Involved in Wikileaks Incident Speaks Out

Cross posted from

BREAKING NEWSSajad  Mutashar and his sister were both injured in the attack that killed  their father in 2007.

A second veteran of Bravo Company 2-16, Ethan McCord, has spoken out about the incident shown in the Wikileaks video "Collateral Murder". Ethan is seen in the video rushing a wounded child (pictured Right) to a medical vehicle.

Sajad Mutashar and his sister were both injured in the attack that killed their father in 2007.


We have been working with Ethan and Josh to help them take their message to a larger audience. Stay tuned here for updates.

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thomas friedman is a great man

oh boy it never ends