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Ear to the Ground

Mentally Ill Troops Reportedly Forced Into Combat

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Posted on May 14, 2006
Jeffrey Henthorn
From the Hartford Courant

Army Spec. Jeffrey Henthorn, 25, a young father and third-generation soldier who committed suicide last year while on his second tour of duty in Iraq. His superiors “knew he was unstable and had threatened suicide at least twice, according to Army investigative reports and interviews,” reports the Hartford Courant. Henthorn is shown here in Iraq with a young girl he befriended. He told family members he was tormented by memories of having shoved a boy off a moving tank and watching the boy?s limp body slip under the wheels.

Combat troops in Iraq are being kept on duty even after exhibiting signs of psychological distress. Eleven such members of the military killed themselves in Iraq in 2004-05, according to the Hartford Courant.


Hartford Courant:

Despite a congressional order that the military assess the mental health of all deploying troops, fewer than 1 in 300 service members see a mental health professional before shipping out.

Once at war, some unstable troops are kept on the front lines while on potent antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs, with little or no counseling or medical monitoring.

And some troops who developed post-traumatic stress disorder after serving in Iraq are being sent back to the war zone, increasing the risk to their mental health.

These practices, which have received little public scrutiny and in some cases violate the military’s own policies, have helped to fuel an increase in the suicide rate among troops serving in Iraq, which reached an all-time high in 2005 when 22 soldiers killed themselves - accounting for nearly one in five of all Army non-combat deaths.

The Courant’s investigation found that at least 11 service members who committed suicide in Iraq in 2004 and 2005 were kept on duty despite exhibiting signs of significant psychological distress. In at least seven of the cases, superiors were aware of the problems, military investigative records and interviews with families indicate.

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By Mike Corbeil, May 14, 2006 at 9:48 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Skews Me says:

“America claims to have an all-volunteer military, but forcing depressed and anxious individuals to be soldiers on the front lines doesn’t sound voluntary to me”.

And ‘Skews Me’ is right, it’s not ‘voluntary’ service at that point, and it is INSANE to place these soldiers in war zones, battle fronts anyway.  It’s not that ‘it doesn’t sound like voluntary’, it is that it is NOT, and very clearly so.  Even if such a soldier said that he or she believes to be ready, this does not mean that the person really is and should be released into battle, not before very careful evaluation.  After all, if the person is not really ready, then he or she is a risk factor to both him- or her-self, as well as to his or her peers.

The best solution is as ‘Skews Me’ states, or, I’ll add, alternatively ship them back home and without touching their military pay and benefits, for it is INHUMANE to deny veterans of their RIGHTS and DIGNITY.  Ya don’t take away from veterans what is theirs!

Non-veteran, but will have this to say anyway, the above.

Mike Corbeil
Canadian-American-Canadian (history explains)

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By Skews Me, May 14, 2006 at 10:12 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

When the Pentagon reports on the number of American deaths in Southwest Asia, do those figures include suicides? Do they include non-combat fatalities? Do they include the deaths of soldiers who have been shipped to Landstuhl Hospital near Kaiserslautern, Germany (where I went to an American high school and received a Presidential Academic Fitness Award for Government my senior year). And what about injuries that leave victims in a vegetative state?

The press has meekly expressed concern that the government is underreporting casualties, and at least one website has sprung up so that family members can report the loss of their sons and daughters to be compared against the official record. While it may not be in the interest of National Security to report every single loss as this provides our enemies with invaluable logistical data, the health of our troops should not be swept under the rug.

Mentally unfit soldiers should not be fighting on the front line. Who’s going to build your morale when your buddies are breaking down around you? Who’s going to take the time to coax a shell-shocked soldier to move out of the line of fire? Who’s going to watch your six when he or she just committed suicide? Might there not be a post available in a non-combat zone that would allow contact with mental health providers?

America claims to have an all-volunteer military, but forcing depressed and anxious individuals to be soldiers on the front lines doesn’t sound voluntary to me. Stop-loss needs some serious reexamining.

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