More U.S.Soldiers died of suicide than in combat in Afghanistan, according to reports from the U.S. Pentagon. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta offered words of concern and asked military leaders to take all steps necessary to deal with this.
The fact is that war is terrible. I remember my father who was decorated for service in Iwo Jima. When wounded, instead of discharge, he requested that he be allowed to return to service "with my brothers" and he did, and came back with even more medals.
But as he told me, he never could forget the memories of death, cruelty, horror and loss. One day, on the battlefield, he saw a slip of paper in the pocket of a Japanese soldier that he had just killed. It was a letter from the soldier's young wife. My father kept that letter until he died, to remind him of the evils of war.
We must treat our men, women, boys and daughters who show the bravery to fight for their nation. But we must also understand that our "children in battle" who have taken their own lives, did it because they could not bear the horror and tragedy of war. Perhaps their hearts were of the most sensitive.
We noted this quote in USA Today: This year, suicides among troops occur on average once a day, according to Pentagon figures obtained by USA TODAY. The data, first reported by the Associated Press, show that after the end of theIraq War, suicides may become more common than combat deaths.
There were 154 confirmed or suspected suicides this year through June 3, while 127 troops died in theAfghanistan War, Pentagon data show.
When I was a child, I once asked my father, to show me how to fight. He was a strong man, his arms big and muscular like Popeye's, his legs large and strong, his neck hard and muscled. He looked at me, gently sat beside me and said: "Ben, fighting is the least effective way, of dealing with people. Learn to communicate, to lead, to persuade. I won't teach you how to fight. Learn how to deal with conflicts in better ways."
Now, dad was a Republican, a conservative, a no nonsense man. But when it came to fighting, as much as he honored his "brothers in arms" and would have died for them. He came to believe in a better way for future generations.
I have always appreciated his lessons to me.
For those loved ones, windows, families of our soldiers who have died by their own hands, we must always let their lives, and the fact that blackness, horror and killing was not a think that they could accept. Their deaths are a message to all of us, a message that echos that of my father.