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:

Advertisement


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
7 years 2 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:

http://americanmentalhealthfoundation.org/entry.php?id=107

bvo

Advertisement

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

Ivette Escobar, a student at Central American University in San Salvador, helps finish a rug in honor of the victims in the 1989 murder of six Jesuits, their housekeeper and her daughter on the UCA campus, part of the 25th anniversary commemoration of the Jesuit martyrs in 2014. (CNS photo/Edgardo Ayala) 
A human rights attorney in the United States believes that the upcoming canonization of Blessed Oscar Romero in October has been a factor in a decision to revisit the 1989 Jesuit massacre at the University of Central America.
Kevin ClarkeApril 20, 2018
Journalists photograph the lethal injection facility at San Quentin State Prison in California in 2010. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File)
In California, Catholic opponents of the death penalty are trying to protect the largest population of inmates awaiting execution in the Western Hemisphere.
Jim McDermottApril 20, 2018
Photo: the Hank Center at Loyola University Chicago
Bishop McElroy said that Catholics must embrace “the virtues of solidarity, compassion, integrity, hope and peace-building.”
Young demonstrators hold a rally in front of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)
Patrick Blanchfield on the history and future gun control in the United States
Ashley McKinlessApril 20, 2018