Friday, August 05, 2005

Uncounted Casualties

From Cursor:

Two young soldiers who served in the Iraq war have killed themselves in separate incidents in Killeen since the weekend, post officials said Wednesday.

Sgt. Robert Decouteaux, 24, of Rosedale, N.Y., died Saturday from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He had been airlifted from his home to a Temple hospital for emergency surgery, but he died while doctors tried to save his life.

And on Monday morning, Spc. Robert Hunt, 22, of Houston, was found dead in his apartment by Killeen police, who were alerted after members of his unit tried to contact him when he failed to report to work.

Carol Smith, a Killeen police spokeswoman, said Wednesday that Hunt's cause of death was listed as asphyxiation.

Fort Hood spokesman Dan Hassett said Decouteaux served in Iraq from April 2003 to March 2004, and that he was scheduled to redeploy when the division returns to the war zone beginning this fall.



A Fort Carson Army soldier, who had just returned from Iraq, has apparently killed his wife and himself...

Private 1st Class Stephen S. Sherwood was a member of the 2nd Battalion with the 2nd Brigade Combat Team. His wife's name hasn't been released yet.

Sherwood's combat team was transferred from South Korea to Iraq where the team lost 68 soldiers during its tour of duty.

The couple's 8-month-old daughter was staying with a neighbor at the time.

The Larimer County sheriff's department and the Fort Carson criminal investigation division are both looking into the deaths as an apparent murder-suicide.

This would be the second Fort Carson soldier to commit suicide in the last year-and-a-half. Chief Warrant Officer William Howell killed himself outside his home in Monument last year. He had returned from Iraq three weeks earlier.

Psychologist Edward Cable says roughly a third of the veterans coming home from Iraq are returning with some sort of mental disorder. "They've been there and had to kill people for their own safety and their mission," he says.

Doctors first began to understand Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after soldiers returned home from Vietnam. Cable says the violence can be triggered when something back home reminds the soldier of a sight, sound, or smell from the battlefield, "and they can become really scared, because your sanity is at stake."

Other bases have also seen the tragic consequences of emotional wounds left from the battlefield. Four soldiers based at Fort Bragg killed their wives after returning from Afghanistan. Two of the soldiers also killed themselves.

Soldiers headed home do go through a debriefing process, but afterwards it is up to them to seek help.

The war is costing a LOT more than the lives lost directly in combat, or the dollars and cents. I don't like sounding pessimistic, but I also fear--very strongly--that we'll eventually have at least one instance where a veteran does something even more horrific than suicide or murder-suicide.

That's not to excuse such a crime if it happens--but war is a wrenching experience...which is why those who've experienced combat (or who've witnessed it up close as staff officers) understandably think of it as an absolute last resort. Only chickenhawks would go to war on a whim.

And I think we can expect to hear more stories like the ones above.

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