Losing on Another Front

By far, the biggest applause during Tuesday's State of the Union speech was in response to a message from the president offering support to American troops serving around the world, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan. Every person present in the chamber rose to his or her feet and stood clapping for several seconds to show their commitment and gratitude to soldiers fighting some of the longest wars in our nation's history. US Solider

Consider that scene against the backdrop of this hideous fact as reported from Congress.org: For the second year in a row, the U.S. military has lost more troops to suicide than it has to combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The article admits that the way these figures are calculated are less than crystal clear, but goes on to say that:


the suicide rate is a further indication of the stress that military personnel live under after nearly a decade of war.

Overall, the services reported 434 suicides by personnel on active duty, significantly more than the 381 suicides by active-duty personnel reported in 2009. The 2010 total is below the 462 deaths in combat, excluding accidents and illness. In 2009, active-duty suicides exceeded deaths in battle.

Last week’s figures, though, understate the problem of military suicides because the services do not report the statistics uniformly. Several do so only reluctantly.

Figures reported by each of the services last week, for instance, include suicides by members of the Guard and Reserve who were on active duty at the time. The Army and the Navy also add up statistics for certain reservists who kill themselves when they are not on active duty.

Supporting American soldiers who are sent again and again to fight wars across the globe is the right thing to do for American lawmakers, but this support must be deeper than a few moments of polite and patriotic applause during a presidential speech. President Obama promised that the Iraq war was coming to a close, and that troops would be home by summer. But these numbers show that the war won't end when the last soldiers leave Iraq. Rather, battles will rage on for years, and perhaps decades, to come, and lawmakers and other public officials will do well to remember that their applause must only be the beginning of a process to offer support and healing for America's wounded warriors.

Michael J. O'Loughlin

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
we vnornm
6 years 12 months ago
Thank you, Michael, for making everyone aware of this important mental health issue. The Aaron Beck Institute in Philadelphia has workshops for mental health professionals who want to help these soldiers:




Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

Formed in 2011, The Oh Hellos' Christianity is one of their foundational inspirations, evident in lines like "the only God I should have loved."
Colleen DulleJanuary 23, 2018
People gather at a June 14 candlelight vigil in Manila, Philippines, in memory of the victims of the mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla. Philippine Catholic bishops called for vigilance against bullying, ostracism and harassment of gay people in the wake of the incident in which police said a lone gunman killed 49 people early June 12 at the club. (CNS photo/Mark R. Cristino, EPA)
“We are losing three generations of people, and we need to hear why,” said Bishop Mark O’Connell.
Michael J. O’LoughlinJanuary 23, 2018
Supporters of opposition presidential candidate Salvador Nasralla clash with military police in the Policarpo Paz Garcia neighborhood of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, on Jan. 20, 2018. Following a disputed election marred by irregularities, incumbent President Juan Orlando Hernandez was declared the victor and will be inaugurated on Jan. 27. The opposition does not recognize Hernandez's victory and are protesting against the result. (AP Photo/Fernando Antonio)
“You will see many protests during his mandate...because Honduras hasn’t fixed its age-old problems of inequality, exclusion, poor educational and health system, corruption and impunity.”
Melissa VidaJanuary 23, 2018
I want to be able to serve the state better. I want to be able to serve more of the state.
Nathan SchneiderJanuary 23, 2018