18 Vets Kill Themselves a Day: We Hail Them As Heroes Then Treat Them Like Garbage
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The following is a transcript of an interview on Democracy Now!
The month of July set a record high for the number of suicides in the U.S. military. An Army report reveals a total of 38 troops committed suicide last month, including 26 active-duty soldiers and 12 Army National Guard or reserve members — more soldiers than were killed on the battlefield. The reasons for the increase in suicides are not fully understood. Among explanations, studies point to combat exposure, post-traumatic stress, misuse of prescription medications and personal financial problems. Army data suggest soldiers with multiple combat tours are at greater risk of committing suicide. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta addressed the issue in June at the annual conference on suicide prevention in the military, saying, "Despite the increased efforts, the increased attention, the trends continue to move in a troubling and tragic direction." We speak with Marguerite Guzmán Bouvard, whose new book is called "The Invisible Wounds of War: Coming Home from Iraq and Afghanistan."
AMY GOODMAN: The month of July set a record high for the number of suicides in the U.S. military. An Army report revealed a total of 38 troops—26 active-duty soldiers, another 12 National Guard or reserve members—are believed to have committed suicide in July, the highest rate recorded in a month since the Army started tracking detailed statistics on such deaths. More U.S. soldiers died in July by taking their own lives than on the battlefield.
We recently spoke to Iraq War veteran Aaron Hughes about suicides in the military.
AARON HUGHES: Every day in this country 18 veterans are committing suicide. Seventeen percent of the individuals that are in combat in Afghanistan, my brothers and sisters, are on psychotropic medication. Twenty to 50 percent of the individuals that are getting deployed to Afghanistan are already diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, military sexual trauma or a traumatic brain injury. Currently one-third of the women in the military are sexually assaulted. It’s clear that these policies of the global war on terror has had a profound effect on the military, my brothers and sisters, while simultaneously perpetuating a failed policy. And unfortunately, we have to live with that failed policy on a daily basis, and we don’t want to be a part of that failed policy anymore.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Aaron Hughes of Iraq Veterans Against the War. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta addressed the issue in June at the annual conference on suicide prevention in the military organized jointly by the Pentagon and the Department of Veterans Affairs.
DEFENSE SECRETARY LEON PANETTA: This issue, suicides, is perhaps the most frustrating challenge that I’ve come across since becoming secretary of defense last year. Despite the increased efforts, the increased attention, the trends continue to move in a troubling and tragic direction.
AMY GOODMAN: Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, speaking in June.
Well, to talk about the enormous problems that are contributing to increasing suicide rates in the military, we’re joined by Marguerite Guzmán Bouvard, whose new book is The Invisible Wounds of War: Coming Home from Iraq and Afghanistan. She’s resident scholar at the Women’s Studies Research Center at Brandeis University, previously a professor of political science and creative writing. Welcome to Democracy Now!
MARGUERITE GUZMÁN BOUVARD: Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: It’s great to have you with us.
MARGUERITE GUZMÁN BOUVARD: It’s a pleasure to be here.
AMY GOODMAN: July, 38 soldiers, National Guard, killed themselves. That’s more than a soldier killing themselves a day.