Time to Act: More Soldiers Lost to Suicide than to Al Qaeda in January
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Last month, suicide took the lives of more American soldiers than Al Qaeda and the Iraqi insurgency combined.
According to preliminary numbers, as many as 24 soldiers killed themselves in January. That's almost five times as many suicides as the same month last year. News of this shocking spike in suicides comes as no surprise to anyone who has been following this issue. 2008 marked the highest rate of military suicide in decades, and suicide rates have been rising every year since the start of the Iraq war.
It's clear that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are taking a tremendous toll on our troops, our veterans and their families. And suicide isn't the only challenge we're facing. Seven years of war have taken their toll on our military families, especially military marriages. Divorce rates among female servicemembers are especially alarming. Unemployment rates are up in general, but new veterans are being hit especially hard. Among Iraq and Afghanistan-era veterans of the active-duty military, the unemployment rate was over eight percent in 2007, about 2 percent higher than their civilian peers. And already, at least 2,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have shown up in one of our nation's homeless shelters.
It is time for bold and immediate action.
Paul Rieckhoff is a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom and the Executive Director and Founder of IAVA (Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans of America), the country's first and largest Iraq Veterans group. IAVA is a non-partisan, non-profit organization headquartered in New York City.