Army suicides reached a record in 2007, another grim toll of the grinding operations in Iraq that have seen some of our troops deployed as many as four times to brutal combat positions. A total of 117 active-duty suicides were recorded last year, the highest ever recorded and 13 more than in 2006. At a press conference, Pentagon officials insisted the record suicide rate is not, in and of itself, the result of the Iraq war.
However, Col. Elspeth Ritchie, a psychiatric consultant to the Army Surgeon General, said the “longtime and multiple deployments away from home, exposure to really terrifying and horrifying things,” have exacerbated problems within the ranks.
The strain of war, and the multiple and extended deployments that have become the norm for U.S. forces, is taking its toll as well on the Army chaplains who minister to the troops. Though none have yet been killed, they’re absorbing the stress of the battlefield as well as the psychological pain of the troops they’re counseling around the clock in the field.
One of the five Army “surge” brigades sent to Iraq last year is on its way home. Thank you 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division.
The Montana National Guard is working to treat PTSD in its ranks.