Archive for Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Suicides raise questions about stress

October 12, 2005


— Chief Warrant Officer William Howell was a 15-year Army Special Forces veteran who had seen combat duty all over the world. Sgt. 1st Class Andre McDaniel was a military accountant. Spc. Jeremy Wilson repaired electronics.

They had little in common, other than having served in Iraq with the 10th Special Forces Group based at Fort Carson, Colo. They did not know each other, and they had vastly different duties.

Each, however, committed suicide shortly after returning home, all within about a 17-month period.

The Army says there appears to be no connection between the men's overseas service and their deaths, and Army investigators found no "common contributing cause" among the three. The fact they were in the same unit is only a coincidence, Special Operations Command spokeswoman Diane Grant said.

Others are not so sure. Steve Robinson, a former Army Ranger and veterans' advocate, said he suspects there were problems in the men's unit - namely, a macho refusal to acknowledge stress and get help.

Howell, 36, a father of three, shot himself March 14, 2004 - three weeks after returning from Iraq - after hitting and threatening to kill his wife, Laura.

The Army says its overall suicide rate in 2003 was 12.8 per 100,000 active-duty soldiers, while the rate in the general U.S. population was 10.5 per 100,000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Military officials contend the 2003 figure for the Army was skewed by a spike in suicides among soldiers in Iraq and Kuwait; the 2004 rate was 11 per 100,000, Army spokeswoman Maj. Elizabeth Robbins said.

Wilson, 23, hanged himself in the post barracks July 9, about a month after returning from Iraq.

McDaniel, 40, a father of two, shot himself in August 2004, six weeks after he returned from Iraq.


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