By Soldier R, Traveling Soldier Correspondent Reporting from Germany
Through all the time I have spent in the U.S. Army, never once have I met a single person like the U.S. Military men and women. Without even knowing somuch as which branch of service you are in, they are not hesitant in the least to jump in front of a bullet for those with whom they serve. Many times however, once these people end their tour of service and begin new lives, slowly adapting to the ever so strange way of the civilians, it is difficult for them to maintain the once solid rock foundation they had with their brothers and sisters in arms. It makes it even more difficult when those surrounding a prior service member do not have the slightest clue as to what war entails and what kind of things may be going through their head.
I would like to introduce to you a horrid truth that many may not be aware of and is a growing problem with war and conflict directly related to service in the U.S. Military: Veteran suicide.
Recently the U.S. Army suffered the loss of a brother. His story is one of heroism and honor. The lives of the friends and family he came into contact with during his life were drastically influenced for the better. He was an excellent example and role model to many and, due to the fact that the U.S. government does not see fit to delegate its time and energy into ensuring that veterans are taken excellent care of, he sadly ended his own life on the 26th of June 2010.
Meet Matthew R. Leininger of Des Plaines. Born in Los Angeles, California, he died Saturday, June 26, 2010. Matthew served in two tours of Iraq with the U.S. Army Military Police. He was the loving father of Philomena and Arthur; dear son of Stephen M. and Patricia A. (nee Johnston); dear brother of Michael S. (Amy) and Robin M. (Timothy) Berg; and cherished uncle of Maximilian and Dominic, Zachary, Alexander, Nathaniel, Samuel and Anna.
With all the support that the active duty military offers its service members and the efforts put forth by the leadership, we have begun attempts to lower the number of suicides and deaths, at that, of current active duty service members. The amazing thing is the ability of the U.S. Military to put procedures and policies in place governing the approach of suicide prevention and the same organization not being able to do so through the Veterans Affairs Office.
"As I've often asked, mostly of myself, but also of others from time to time, why do we know so much about suicides but so little about how to prevent them?" VA Secretary Eric Shinseki (NYDailyNews.com)
I honestly believe I heard the most disappointing thing this morning.
I was in a meeting with several soldiers, including a retired SFC who works as a civilian for the Army. The retired SFC said, "I'd rather you kill yourself than other people."
To this, one SGT in the corner responded, "Yeah, it's an easier mess to clean up."
I was caught off guard, but very upset. So I began to question everyone in the room asking how they could take suicide so lightly and be so inconsiderate to those who may have been driven to the edge by people very similar to themselves. Then the civilian responded by saying, "Everyone's life motto should be, 'Homicide, not suicide.'" To which I responded, "But sir, you just contradicted yourself."
I explained that I knew of three soldiers who had killed themselves in the past week including one veteran and that I did not take suicide very lightly. Most of the people in the room left and the civilian kept laughing in a very snarky way.
Needless to say, I believe the Army as a whole is a failure when it comes to suicide prevention, especially considering that the rate of suicides in the U.S. Military was at its highest in 2008 since records started being kept in 1980.
All in all, I believe the Army needs to reconsider its approach to suicide prevention. In several news articles, including articles with www.wsws.org and The Huffington Post, Army Secretary Pete Geren stated that they are committed to doing everything they can to address the issue, but somehow the rate still climbs.
More effort needs to be put forth on even the lowest level in everyday encounters with leaders and their soldiers to include punishments for infractions those soldiers commit. I honestly believe that the problems should be handled on the lowest level due to that being where the issue originates in the first place.