2nd Amendment to the Constitution of The United States of America

A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

"I ask sir, what is the militia? It is the whole people except for a few politicians."
- George Mason (father of the Bill of Rights and The Virginia Declaration of Rights)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Should the President send condolence letters for miltiary members who commit suicide?...I say yes.

As you may or may not know, for a year I served as the Information Management Officer (IMO) for the Kuwait Casualty Area Command (CAC) at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait. As part of my duties I would routinely have to verify and adjust our reported numbers of killed and wounded in theater against what was being reported by both the DOD and civilian news outlets and other sources (eg, icasualties.org, CNN) if need be. One thing that I found disturbing is that we would occasionally come across a person that was being counted as have died as a result of OIF/OEF action on once of the civilian sites that we would not have. Upon further investigation I would find that they would sometimes be servicemembers who had been evacuated for psych issues from theater and would commit suicide back stateside at a later date. While I am a bit sketchy on the regs after almost 5 years after the fact, I believe there may have been some magical 120 cut off for counting deaths in our number once a casualty reached stateside. That too never made sense to me. I mean if a soldier lost both legs to an IED and went to Walter Reed and eventually succumbed to his injuries six months later we should count him, am I right?

A couple of Senators are asking that the president start sending condolence letters to the families of these military suicides. In a bi-partisan letter, Senators Barbara Boxer (D-California) and Richard Burr (R-North Carolina) urged President Obama to end the "insensitive practice" of not providing such recognition letters to the families under such circumstances. News story from Fox News here...

Senators Call on President to Change Condolence Letter Policy for Military Suicide Victims

I think its only right and just that the military and the president themselves acknowledge the loss of these individuals to the families left behind. Take note, this may be one of the few times that I ever agree with something Senator Boxer states publicly. When you enlist or are commissioned in the armed forces you basically write a blank check to the government to cash if need be at your expense. Its your responsibility to back the check amount if need be, and its the governments responsibility to ensure that the check is used wisely. While I am not saying that everyone with a mental issue after serving over there deserves a purple heart as some would try and make happen (that is an issue for another time). I do believe that the families of those that have taken their own lives after being exposed to the horrors of war and not being able to cope with the long term mental affects of that unseen injury deserve the closure of knowing that a grateful nation mourns with them in their loss.

As most people who served closely with me over at Camp AJ will attest, the numbers drove me nuts. Not that it was a long trip for me to get to nuts to begin with, but the constant re verification game I had to participate in because someone thought that they saw something different somewhere was frustrating. Back in 2007 we were fast approaching the morbid milestone of having 3,000 US deaths in theater since the start of the GWOT conflicts. I was tasked with verifying the names, dates and circumstances of all deceased casualties to that point in our database. To my horror I found out at some previous point the database had crashed and in the place of over half of our records in it there were entries in the form of "Hostile Deceased 147" and the like as placeholders for the original data in order for automated reports to generate. It took me several long and sometimes sleepless days and nights to recreate this data from every source available, yes even from places like iCasualties.org.

This is a pic of my CAC boss, LTC "JC"..he is giving me the "WTH did you do to the numbers now" look...I got that a lot. He was a pretty awesome guy and saved me from myself on more than one occasion, thanks JC...
I should mention about iCasualties.org...professionally as the IMO they were the "enemy" so to speak. An external entity that was doing the same job we were tasked to do but not necessarily burdened by all of the regulations that we were. Personally, I think that the individual or group behind the site did a great job of capturing data and presenting it graphically on the site. They were so good as a matter of fact that they caused my boss and I a lot of headaches when they were used by others as source data to compare against our numbers. No hard feelings guys...whatever your purpose for the site it did provide me with another baseline to use when I had to recover all of those records.

Back on topic, its time we fully recognize fully than not every wound suffered in war is visible and not every casualty of war occurs on the battlefield.

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