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A U.S. military veteran kills himself every 80 minutes, with more than 6,500 dying by their own hand every year.These numbers get pulled out and held to the light every so often, then fall away as the magnitude and scope of the issue leaves the public numb and uninterested.
Nick Kristof took the time to haul the horrific stats onto the pages of The New York Times and points out the number of suicides in a single year far outnumber the combat dead in Iraq and Afghanistan combined.
These unnoticed killing fields are places like New Middletown, Ohio, where Cheryl DeBow raised two sons, Michael and Ryan Yurchison, and saw them depart for Iraq. Michael, then 22, signed up soon after the 9/11 attacks. “I can’t just sit back and do nothing,” he told his mum. Two years later, Ryan followed his beloved older brother to the Army.
When Michael was discharged, DeBow picked him up at the airport — and was staggered. “When he got off the plane and I picked him up, it was like he was an empty shell,” she told me. “His body was shaking.” Michael began drinking and abusing drugs, his mother says, and he terrified her by buying the same kind of gun he had carried in Iraq. “He said he slept with his gun over there, and he needed it here,” she recalls.
Kristof’s piece is elegant, sad, and should be read by everyone in America who cares at all what their military members endure.
There are going to be one million new veterans hurled back into the communities from which they came over the next five years, many are combat scarred, and too many will take their own lives.
By Kristof and the Times giving the unpleasant topic a bit of attention, maybe it will get the national attention it deserves and bring some much needed help.
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