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madsmom1030's avatar

Should a deployed soldier that commits suicide get a letter of condolence from the President?

Asked by madsmom1030 (1033points) November 29th, 2009

I was reading through the news and came across a story about a young soldier that took his own life this past June while deployed for the 3rd time to Iraq. He was given all of the honors a soldier gets that has died in battle except a letter from the President. Apparently during the Clinton administration it was decided that soldiers’ who kill themselves do not get a condolence letter because they haven’t been killed in combat. Makes you think whether mental health issues are injuries that we can’t see. his deployments had cost him a marriage and a girlfriend. when he was sent as a reservist on the 3rd deployment he was with people he didn’t know. his mental health records were not sent to his new unit. just curious to see what you guys think.

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32 Answers

DrBill's avatar

My thought is NO

Val123's avatar

I’ll be watching this one! My first thought was Yes, they should. But….reserving comment….

NaturalMineralWater's avatar

I think they should. Most people get stressed about whether they are going to be late for work, or if their boss will like their presentation. These things can cause stress, but not like a deployment.. especially when your foundation.. your support channel is destroyed.. such as losing a wife or a relative.

Frankly, I don’t understand the mentality of not doing a letter of condolence.

PretentiousArtist's avatar

It would be nice…

augustlan's avatar

I think so, especially if serving in the military caused or contributed to his mental state.

avvooooooo's avatar

Absolutely. He is a casualty of war. The facts of this war make it more likely that such casualties will continue to mount.

laureth's avatar

If the soldier was shot in battle and didn’t die immediately, but of an infection or complications later, his family would receive a letter.

Suicide from something like PTSD is the same – a delayed death from a combat wound. That the injury was psychological instead of physical makes it no less a wound.

AstroChuck's avatar

Absolutely. I think many fail to realize the level of stress today’s soldiers face. It was bad enough during the Vietnam era when soldiers witnessed such atrocities. But most Vietnam vets experienced these things in only one campaign. Now we see these young men and women going through two, three, four, or even more. PTSD is no joke. My son-in-law suffers from it.

Darwin's avatar

Yes, they should in a case like this one. Although it was by means of his own hand, this young man’s death was indeed related to his service to his country. The families of guys killed by their own stupidity or by avoidable accidents get letters, even though their deaths did not come directly through interaction with the enemy either.

In speaking to friends who have been deployed and have made it back, I have found that the time in Iraq is terrible even for those who have intact support systems and are serving with people they know. How much worse must it be for a soldier who has lost everything meaningful back home because of his deployment, and who has already demonstrated mental instability related to his service.

Bill Clinton never served in the military and so had no idea what pressures soldiers on unpleasant deployments face.

aprilsimnel's avatar

Yes. A soldier is basically in the custody of the armed forces and they are responsible for the soldier’s welfare. However it happened, the soldier is still dead. Send the letter.

Val123's avatar

I would think that it would be a double slap to the family to not receive a letter….their son has gone through hell, for three years, serving his country. Family was worried 24/7…and then he commits suicide. The devastation is unimaginable to me. And then, on top of that, they get snubbed by the president.

nzigler's avatar

No. In ambiguous cases the letter will serve as a statement from the president concerning whether it was suicide or an accident. If we send a letter to every vet who dies in the US- that’s a hellovalot of letters and where would it stop? National guard? Reserves?

What if a soldier comes back and drinks themselves to death? What if they engage in risky behavior which happens to get them killed?

I think it’s simpler to just send them out when soldiers are KIA. I have a personal appreciation for the hardships returning soldiers face but this is a total can of worms.

Val123's avatar

@nzigler I don’t think any soldier who has returned from the war, gets a letter when they die…..unless they’ve returned on a stretcher, hurt in action, to be cared for in a US hospital, and they die from their injuries.

But, I see your point. What if they’re playing some stupid game with a hand grenade and blow themselves up. Should the president write a letter then?

nzigler's avatar

@Val123 I agree. My point is it would be unreasonable to do so and it’s a slippery slope for the president to navigate. Suicide isn’t always clear and lots of family members might be in denial.

avvooooooo's avatar

Any death while deployed for any reason is a result of combat. Period.

nzigler's avatar

What about people who are home and not deployed?

avvooooooo's avatar

Obviously there is a difference. Which is why I specified deployments.

Suicides while at home are the fault of the military as well and the stigma placed on asking for help with mental health issues within the armed services. These are combat-related deaths, but not combat deaths.

nzigler's avatar

I agree with most of the people who posted here that said suicide is often directly related to the conditions soldiers are subject to. That said, my question is what to do then about people who come home and kill themselves because of lingering psychological issues. My heart goes out to them and their families but I think you couldn’t send them letters even though it’s clearly causal. Sorry if I didn’t make that clear.

Val123's avatar

@nzigler I think for this question we can stick with only those soldiers who are actively deployed and facing active combat.

nzigler's avatar

So, I have a procedural question… do they send a letter when someone dies of a stroke or a heart attack while deployed? They should- I agree that everyone who dies while deployed and is actively serving in the military deserves recognition (from the president too). Still, it’s fairly unsatisfying to think of the people who carry the war home with them and who will succumb to its affects and not receive help, let alone formal recognition as to why they really died.

jamielynn2328's avatar

Yeah, I gotta agree on this one. If a soldier kills himself while deployed, then it is a result of combat. And what happens after the soldier’s death really only has an impact on the family. These families deserve their beloved soldier to have the same respect in death that other soldier’s families receive. In a war like this one, unfortunately we have lost many to their own hands. How can we judge someone in that sort of position.

Val123's avatar

@nzigler I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect for every single soldier who ever served to get a formal recognition from the President.

nzigler's avatar

@Val123 I never said that. I’m confused why you think that.

Okay- I was talking about not sending letters to people who commit suicide back in the US. I see this guy was deployed at the time. I do think its a little iffy and weird that we can admit that suicides are related to service but that the government would only send a letter if the suicide occurred while deployed. I see why that’s practical (hell, I pointed out why that’s practical which is what you keep talking about) but its still odd.

That said, coming home with shrapnel in your head which kills you a week after you get home would probably warrant a letter right?

Val123's avatar

@nzigler In answer to your question, yes. I said something similar above: I don’t think any soldier who has returned from the war, gets a letter when they die…..unless they’ve returned on a stretcher, hurt in action, to be cared for in a US hospital, and they die from their injuries.

And perhaps I am misunderstanding you. This is an interesting discussion, but in regards to the actual question, I say, absolutely the person’s family should get a letter….

rangerr's avatar

Yes. IMO, suicide is harder to cope with than a “normal” death for lack of a better word.
I agree with @jamielynn2328, that’s a ridiculous case of judgment.

Mamradpivo's avatar

Yes. His family deserves a condolence letter. He was deployed for the third time because we the people sent him.

wundayatta's avatar

Of course he should get a Presidential condolence letter. It is extremely insensitive for the government to not do this. It is probably the result of a misunderstanding about why people commit suicide. The guy could have just as easily stood up in front of hostile fire.

Suicide, they say, results from depression, which is a disorder of brain chemistry. Some can fight it, and others can’t. Some need help to fight it. If they don’t get that help, they die. By their own hand. The armed services are responsible for everyone in their care. If they fail to do everything possible to help a soldier, then they are at fault.

The soldier should get the letter.

RedPowerLady's avatar

Yes. Absolutely. Look at the mental health issues that started becoming evident after the Vietnam war. PTSD for one example. There is no denying that being in War causes mental health issues. And to say that it somehow separate from a soldier’s suicide is just fooling ourselves. I think the government should show some responsibility and sending a letter is the least they can do.

Kraigmo's avatar

Of course soldiers dead of suicide should have condolences from the President mailed to their family.

In many (but certainly not all) cases… the suicide is mostly the fault of the government to begin with. All dead American soldiers deserve this support to their families.

JLeslie's avatar

My gut reaction is no they should not receive a presidential letter of condolence; unless, the letters are done for any and all deaths or suicides while serving in the military, not just at war time. But, I might change my mind :).

I do think there needs to be more attention and sensitivity given to mental illness, substance abuse, and suicide among our troops.

karenmarie's avatar

Whenever someone in the Military dies due to a war related incident they should absolutely get a letter… & Mental health is a liability of war…
Letters should be set out immediately after someone dies without delay….
I am extremely disappointed in our president… How very sad that my friends son died in Afghanistan one month ago today and they have yet to receive ANY kind of letter from our Nations Leader…

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