Monday, March 30, 2009

Wall Street Journal: A General's Personal Battle

By YOCHI J. DREAZEN

Fort Carson, Colo.

Maj. Gen. Mark Graham is on the frontlines of the Army's struggle to stop its soldiers from killing themselves. Through a series of novel experiments, the 32-year military veteran has turned his sprawling base here into a suicide-prevention laboratory.
[Suicide] Photo illustration by John Kuczala

One reason: Fort Carson has seen nine suicides in the past 15 months. Another: Six years ago, a 21-year-old ROTC cadet at the University of Kentucky killed himself in the apartment he shared with his brother and sister. He was Kevin Graham, Gen. Graham's youngest son.

After Kevin's suicide in 2003, Gen. Graham says he showed few outward signs of mourning and refused all invitations to speak about the death. It was a familiar response within a military still uncomfortable discussing suicide and its repercussions. It wasn't until another tragedy struck the family that Gen. Graham decided to tackle the issue head on.

"I will blame myself for the rest of my life for not doing more to help my son," Gen. Graham says quietly, sitting in his living room at Fort Carson, an array of family photographs on a table in front of him. "It never goes away."

Suicide is emerging as the military's newest conflict. For 2008, the Pentagon has confirmed that 140 soldiers killed themselves, the highest number in decades.

At a Senate hearing last week, Gen. Peter Chiarelli, the Army's vice chief of staff, told lawmakers that 48 soldiers have already committed suicide in 2009. The figure puts the Army on pace for nearly double last year's figure. "I, and the other senior leaders of our Army, readily acknowledge that these current figures are unacceptable," Gen. Chiarelli said at the hearing.

The rest of the story can be found here.

2 comments:

Love Letters to the Middle East said...
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Love Letters to the Middle East said...

You are always bringing awareness to the most important issues; thank you!

I really enjoy your posts. When I was at Arlington West, the volunteers spoke of one particular individual who had come home from service, had just got engaged to his wife, and took his own life shortly thereafter (God bless him and his family). He had lost 5+ friends to the war and his symptoms of PTSD and suicide were misunderstood.
We need to pay more attention to these issues.
I think it's is definitely a citizens responsibility to help our soldiers recognize what may be affecting them. We need to look out for our friends and family service-members.
It's time to step it up and fight the symptoms before they become the main issue.