Fair Specimens of Citizen Soldiers
I saw this today.
Is the General right or wrong?
What say you?
The general was wrong. I am a Naval Officer who just had his best friend since 2nd grade kill himself. I went and cleaned up his house so that his mother would not have to see it. I cleaned up five garbage cans full of alcohol bottles, the feces from his bed and the floor, vomit from the same, and prescription pill bottles from all over. He was obviously in a worse place than I have ever been. You cannot be mad at him for it.
That being said, the general should not be forced to recant his statement. Political correctness has gone too far when a General cannot speak his mind on a subject that is affecting his troops.
The General is right on the mark. As we all know, recognizing and taking responsibility for your actions and emotions is perhaps the most crucial responsibility of a military leader. To deny that someone has to develop these skills weakens our fighting forces.
Gen Pittards comments are what I told my Marines, and, what our CO told us as Lt's when we had a Lt kill himself in our Battalion. He required every officer in the Battalion to be at the clean-up – which was an exact replica of what brodie describes above. I can very keenly empathize with brodie about the strong feelings and sadness that accompanies something like he went through – tough – but necessary. I venture to offer that brodie will be counseling and approaching this topic differently in his command going forward.
I'm very familiar with these issues, from experience as a Commander, and, as a Senior Board Member on a Group level Family Advocacy Board were I reviewed approx 800 domestic family issues over the course of two years in conjunction with medical staff. There are, without a doubt, some Marines who have no control over their actions due to extreme psychological trauma or injuries; these Marines need special treatment and attention. These are not nearly as common as the media would have you believe – not every Marine comes back from combat "mortally scarred for life". For just about all the others, as I am endlessly harping on about, small unit leadership is crucial. The comrades and immediate superiors of a troubled Marine must identify and make way for that Marine to be hurriedly evac'd out of the "danger zone" . By danger zone, I mean that initial period where early intervention will put that Marine in an appropriate treatment program. Where were the Squad leaders and Lt's when the Gen's solider killed himself. In my day, which was not that long ago, we had the means to involuntarily hospitalize, we had the means to direct medical observation, and most importantly, we had the means to put a couple eyeballs on troubled Marines even it it meant stationing someone in his barracks room, or, having a Staff NCO repeatedly visiting and calling the home. Isn't this done anymore?
I believe the general was correct, the forum he chose to speak his mind was wrong, and it was incorrect for him to retract his statement. It's obvious to even the dullest person that he did not change his view over night, but that the word came down to conform.
With that said, there is a time and place when taking your own life is understandable. Terminal illness, possibly people with the onset of Alzheimers or dementia. However, I believe there are too many safety nets in place for people today that can stop a person before they reach this point. A person does have to connect with these programs and that is partly the individuals responsibility along with his colleagues, friends and family.
I have seen the aftermath of several suicides and have recently had a family member declare he wanted to kill himself. In my families case the person was simply trying to blackmail the rest of us into doing what he wanted. It did not happen and he did nothing. In most of the other cases the person wanted people to feel sorr for them, get even with a family member or simply not deal with the problems they themselves created. Those were selfish acts because the rest of us do have to carry on and eventually settle their problems.
Personally, I do believe the average suicide is a cowardly act. Unfortunately there are a lot of cowards in the world.
For an organization that makes "Candor" a reportable, positive attribute on evaluation reports, the Army sure does spend an inordinate amount of time lying to itself. Sounds like the Return of Reimer.
The General is correct.
Prior to 9/11, a suicide in the battery was a career-ender. First question in the interview with the Battalion and Brigade Commanders was: "Why did you permit your soldier to commit suicide?"
Having been the Command Representative to every suicide on/off post by a joe or family member for a year, and going the reports, doing the forensics on why a female SPC with several attempts under belt before she very nastily killed herself was not chaptered out at light-speed, all I have for suicides is Anger.
I personally got so jaded that when the duty officer from the training center called me to tell me a basic trainee had tied a bootlace around his neck and had thrown himself off the 2d floor landing in front of his platoon and DS. The SDO asked me what to do: "it's a gesture (aka temper tantrum) – secure him, chapter him as unsuitable, and if he resists, BCD.'
I knew the stats then, and have lived through all those great and wonderful life events that indicate suicide, and none of that compares to the feeling of handing a flag to the widow of a young suicide – pure, raw Anger, and it's been 13 years.
A friend of mine has PTSD. Her driver blew his brains out all over her while talking on the phone to his wife back in the states. The driver was mad that his wife was unfaithful. He really showed her, didn't he?
The Army has a very good suicide-minimization program. What needs to be added is a series of very stark vignettes, with the basic rubric of "The learner will identify the trauma and bullshit s/he inflicts on every human being, soldier or not, who has to literally and figuratively clean up after him or her, as the survivors progress through life over 2 decades."
Suicide "attempts" are a cry for help, there are a number of ways people can kill themselves if they really wanted to do it. Actual successful suicides ARE selfish and cowardly acts. They disregard the effect it has on the people around them to relieve personal pain. People have been dealing with serious issues without killing themselves for millenia. My wife has an uncle that woke up with his friend's hand in his, just the hand, the rest of his friend was gone. He's still around, and hasn't even made an attempt on his life. This was Vietnam when a significant portion of people seemed to have an issue with the military.
Today there are hundreds of options available, if people bother to seek them out. If they are too lazy and/or cowardly to do so and instead choose to end their own lives we should not feel sorry for them, we should feel sorry for their loved ones. The military has regular "training" sessions where they tell people their options if they are contemplating suicide, those individuals chose not to use them. Most schools I know of have similar programs, so the word is out there. Cold maybe, but I refuse to call someone who commits suicide a victim.
The general is both right and wrong. He is absolutely correct in saying, "I have now come to the conclusion that suicide is an absolutely selfish act. I am personally fed up with soldiers who are choosing to take their own lives so that others can clean up their mess." Suicide is truly the most selfish end-state that one can choose as it ultimately ends up harming the living more than the dead as the living have to go through the trauma of cleaning up after the dead both physically and mentally.
He is wrong in saying, "Be an adult, act like an adult and deal with your real-life problems like the rest of us." This statement implies that an individual within the military should take the standard approach to personal problems: go home, get yourself sorted out, and come back the next day ready to do your job in a professional manner. It's this dissonance between the military view of personal problems being handled personally, i.e. individually and privately, and the need for such issues to be dealt with by multiple people and in a semi-public manner that's going to continue to be an ongoing issue. If the military can get people to understand that they need to actually go to others to talk about the issues that lead to suicide, and the cultural mindset that asking for such help is not a sign of weakness can be changed, than telling people to "act like an adult" will be the correct statement.
Heard on the news today that army suicides are the highest ever. Apparently one per day. Interesting that pittard was lambasted by higher, and now this breaking news. Anybody out there know if this number is outside the norm?
I am a vet so is my husband , we were in the military in the late 70's. We had got married in 1978 . We didn't have no children when we were in the Army. We had our ups and downs all thourgh our married, we are still married, a pain in the butt to each other, sometimes. We never had to be in war , never seen any bloodshed . When I was getting close to 30, I was close to suicide one night, I work a factory all day, tired, my husband bitching at me,this was in 1980's and we had a child, I went out on the porch so I wouldn't have to listern to him, I was in a haze, wishing to end it all, hoping a truck would come down the road and I would jump in front of it and died, not have to hear my husband bitching and using his mind games on me. ( He is not like that now to me), I was so tired, something stop me, my suicide haze was gone, maybe it was the cool breeze. I know I never was in a war, never seen death like all you young people do or killed a person but I know once that suicide haze hits you, it not about being a adult and making the right choices, its hoping someone,some good memory that made you happy, a loving family face comes into your mind breaking the haze, I know you feel like you might not feel you can break thourgh the haze but you can. It is worth living for your future. Everyone is not perfect even if some people think they are. Get help before you get into that suicide haze, and if people put you down for getting help , they need help , too. I love you for what you do, being in the military can be tough and having a family along for the ride is difficult but love your children the way they love you and keep on living.
A news article today about the "one a day" suicide rate said one of the most astonishing facts was that the vast majority of suicides were committed by those who had not even been to war.
I think this is a combination of poor recruiting candidates who either have existing issues or have debilitated coping mechanisms with stress. This, coupled with poor leadership in the ranks due to rapid promotion of soldiers who simply were not mature enough for their rank. When an eighteen-year old kid has a twenty-three year old squad leader (albeit a very combat-seasoned one), I think you're going to have issues such as this. Combat vet or not, a twenty-three year old, on average, will likely not have the maturity and experience needed to recognize a problem and know how to address it properly.