Posts Tagged ‘Army suicides’

The Price of Unending War

September 13, 2010

 As retired Sergeant Major Samuel Rhodes spoke to the Rotary Club of Columbus about the U.S. Army’s suicide problem, I could not but help reflect on all of the costs of  being at war continually. 

Command Sgt. Maj. Samuel Rhodes (retired)Sgt. Rhodes, who served for 30 months in Iraq and contemplated suicide himself, now works at Changing the Military Culture of Silence, the title of his book, in order to help soldiers cope with PTS, post traumatic stress. He says one in five combat veterans is diagnosed with PTS.  Many of them will contemplate suicide and the suicide rate keeps rising.  In the past the Army, he said, tried to sweep the problem under the rug, but that has changed.  The military’s top brass have praised him for his efforts in focusing on the military’s dealing with mental health issues. 

One of the reasons for the increase in suicides is extended deployments of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Nine years of wars, wars that most Americans basically ignore because they are being fought by less than one percent of the population, have put a tremendous strain on the Army. Instead of increasing the size of the Army, soldiers are given extended deployments keeping them away from their families for long periods of time. For one thing, this has put a strain on marriages.  Sgt. Rhodes said when he returned home with PTS after his last 18 months in Iraq, his marriage of 26 years ended, and he contemplated suicide himself.  Instead, though, according to an article in the National Journal, he is remarried, happily he says, and he and his first wife remain good friends, and he is dedicating his life to doing what he can to help soldiers with PTS and their families. 

It is good to know that the military is now openly facing and trying to do something about this problem, but, in my view,  all of its efforts at providing therapy will not get to its root, the practice of staying continually at war. The military can’t solve that one. Only the politicians can do something about that. 

Most Americans may be going about their daily lives giving little thought to the sacrifice that a very small percentage of the population is making, but whether they’re paying attention or not, these wars are still affecting them on a grand scale.  The price is very steep. 

More on this in future posts.

(The photograph was supplied by my friend and fellow Rotarian Jim Cawthorne of Camera1.)

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Herschel Walker Tells Ft. Benning Audience How He Overcame Mental Illness

May 14, 2010

 

Herschel Walker speaking to National Infantry Museum Parade Field audience

Herschel Walker talking with media following his talk to soldiers and middle school students at Fort Benning

Walker said he went from being a “special” student because of a speech impediment, who suffered a lot of bullying in his early years,  to becoming a martial artist and successful high school, college, and professional football player.  He made the point that everyone gets knocked down a lot in the game of life,  but getting back up and staying in the game is what is important.   Also, a big moment is when, like he did, you admit you need help in handling your mental problems and get it.  He was diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder, formerly known as multiple personality disorder.  He also emphasized repeatedly the important role that Jesus Christ played in helping him overcome his problems. Along with three writers, he has authored a book about his life, Breaking Free: My Life with Dissociative Identity Disorder.

The Army brought Walker to Fort Benning as a “Guest Trainer” for the Suicide Prevention Awareness Training session which was sponsored by the Army Substance Abuse Program.  The suicide rate in the Army has been steadily increasing, hitting a record with 128 suicides in 2008. 

This morning’s event was definitely worth the trip to Fort Benning and the long, hot walk from the packed National Infantry Museum parking lot to the parade field.  It’s not everyday that you can hear probably the greatest running back of all time tell about how he overcame mental illness.