Friday, November 16, 2007

Casualties on the Homefront

The Times of London has a story today on suicides among American veterans. According to them, "At least 6,256 US veterans took their lives in 2005, at an average of 17 a day." And it looks like many of these are young vets, recently returned from Iraq and Afghanistan.

The suicide rate among Americans as a whole was 8.9 per 100,000, but the level among veterans was at least 18.7. That figure rose to a minimum of 22.9 among veterans aged 20 to 24 – almost four times the nonveteran average for people of the same age.

There are 25 million veterans in the United States, 1.6 million of whom served in Afghanistan and Iraq.

“Not everyone comes home from the war wounded, but the bottom line is nobody comes home unchanged,” said Paul Rieckhoff, a former Marine and founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans for America.

CBS quoted the father of a 23-year-old soldier who shot himself in 2005 as suggesting that the military was covering up the scale of the problem. “Nobody wants to tally it up in the form of a government total,” Mike Bowman said. “They don’t want the true numbers of casualties to really be known.”

Mr Bowman’s son, Tim, was an army reservist who patrolled one of the most dangerous places in Baghdad, known as Airport Road. “His eyes when he came back were just dead. The light wasn’t there anymore,” said his mother, Kim Bowman. Eight months later, on Thanksgiving Day, Tim committed suicide.

The "official" casualty count for this war is so far from representing its true human costs.

UPDATE: It seems that, when you control for gender, race, and age, vets are--at most--only marginally more likely to commit suicide than the civilian population. This does not, however, answer the question of whether or not vets who have seen combat (in Iraq or elsewhere) are more likely to commit suicide than those who have not.