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18 Vets Kill Themselves a Day: We Hail Them As Heroes Then Treat Them Like Garbage

The month of July set a record high for the number of suicides in the U.S. military.

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MARGUERITE GUZMÁN BOUVARD: That’s right. And before I—after I finished that book, finally the Department of Defense was letting out these statistics. They were not letting them out before. I tried to get them. I called Veterans for Common Sense, Veterans United for Truth. They have 50,000 members. They said, "Sorry, the numbers are not coming out." And what I did get was that, in every 36 hours, one veteran from the Iraqi or Afghanistani war are committing suicide, and 18 veterans of all wars commit suicide a day. Also—

AMY GOODMAN: So, let’s talk about that—a day. I have heard this figure over the years, because we’re not talking about veterans when we talk about 38 people—


AMY GOODMAN: —killed themselves in July, you know, far more than die on the battlefield.

MARGUERITE GUZMÁN BOUVARD: Right. Just one more quote. One—in 155 days in 2012, 154 soldiers killed themselves in combat, not as veterans. This is a very, very important figure and one which we really need to pay attention to.

AMY GOODMAN: One of the chapters in your book,  The Invisible Wounds of War, is "The High Rate of Suicides," and you have a photograph of Noah Charles Pierce. Talk about how you came to this issue.

MARGUERITE GUZMÁN BOUVARD: I’m a writer. I write poetry and short stories as well as books on human rights. One of the reviews that had a story of mine, I saw a couple of poems by a soldier that committed suicide. And I thought, "What is this? A soldier committing suicide?" And I asked the editor, "Put me in touch with his mother." And it took me a while to persuade him to put me in touch with his mother. I did finally get in touch with her, talked to her a lot, wrote an article about her, talked to her continually. She was upset and later on became angry, which is, I think, very, very useful, to be angry—not anger to hurt another person, but anger at what was happening to people like her son. She said, "When he came back, he wasn’t Noah anymore. He was a different person."

So, the kind of combat that these soldiers endure is something that most Americans don’t know anything about. They don’t know about IEDs, improvised explosive devices, explosively formed penetrators. What do these mean? I’ll tell you what they mean. You can’t see them. They’re put under the—under the asphalt. They’re hidden in bushes. They’re put in garbage cans. So, here you are in a Humvee, which is not mine-resistant. You see your buddy get blown to bits. So you’re picking up pieces of his body, putting them in a bag, cleaning out the Humvee. You’re watching your buddies die in terrible circumstances, day after day after day. And what happens is that the membrane between life and death kind of disappears.

AMY GOODMAN: You wrote a poem about Noah, and I was wondering if you could read it here?

MARGUERITE GUZMÁN BOUVARD: Oh, thank you. Thank you. Noah is in my heart, I have to say, and that’s why—

AMY GOODMAN: Where did he live?

MARGUERITE GUZMÁN BOUVARD: He lived in—he lived in Eveleth, Minnesota, in a small town. There are so many soldiers that come back that don’t get the care that they need, that are in small towns. Nobody else is—1 percent of our soldiers are in the war, OK? One percent. And it’s a volunteer army. So, I will read Noah’s poem. "Specialist Noah Charles Pierce."

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