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The human toll
Suicide: 3% of US Deaths in Iraq
118 Troops Took Own Lives in Iraq, an Unknown Number After They Returned Home
08/13/2007 6:27 PM ET
About 3% of US deaths in Iraq have resulted from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, and suicide can create casualties of war months after troops have left the field of battle. The Pentagon's official tally counts 118 troops who have taken their own lives in Iraq, but does not maintain statistics (at least publicly) on the number who choose death even after they have survived the war zone and returned home.

E&P's Greg Mitchell discusses the perplexing riddle that leaves for journalists reporting on the deaths:

"In a sense, the press doesn't know what to do about them. Did they serve their country well, but ultimately let it down? Or is their country fully responsible for putting them in a suicide-producing situation in the first place and has blood on its hands?"

The suicide rate among all veterans is now about twice the national average as that of nonveterans, according to Michael Koplin, suicide-prevention coordinator for the VA medical center in Salt Lake City.

In the Army, suicide rates between 2003 and 2006 for soldiers in Operation Iraqi Freedom were higher than the average Army rate, 16.1 versus 11.6 soldier suicides per year per 100,000, according to U.S. Army Medical Command spokesman Jerry Harben.

An act of suicide is often viewed as a shameful sin, which can make covering a soldier's self-inflicted killing a tricky proposition for a journalist who wants to delve into a story while respecting the grief of the suffering family. But allowing the issue to remain undiscussed only serves to perpetuate the ashamed silence of returning troops being plagued by suicidal thoughts.


Wounded Warrior Project