Posted on 16th April 2012 by Administrator in Economy |Politics |Social Issues


It’s funny. Those really cool TV commercials showing our awesome military machine never seem to address the reality described in this article. Ask yourself who benefits from never ending war. Who pays the price? Global force for good my ass. 

April 14, 2012

A Veteran’s Death, the Nation’s Shame


HERE’S a window into a tragedy within the American military: For every soldier killed on the battlefield this year, about 25 veterans are dying by their own hands.

An American soldier dies every day and a half, on average, in Iraq or Afghanistan. Veterans kill themselves at a rate of one every 80 minutes. More than 6,500 veteran suicides are logged every year — more than the total number of soldiers killed in Afghanistan and Iraq combined since those wars began.

These unnoticed killing fields are places like New Middletown, Ohio, where Cheryl DeBow raised two sons, Michael and Ryan Yurchison, and saw them depart for Iraq. Michael, then 22, signed up soon after the 9/11 attacks.

“I can’t just sit back and do nothing,” he told his mom. Two years later, Ryan followed his beloved older brother to the Army.

When Michael was discharged, DeBow picked him up at the airport — and was staggered. “When he got off the plane and I picked him up, it was like he was an empty shell,” she told me. “His body was shaking.” Michael began drinking and abusing drugs, his mother says, and he terrified her by buying the same kind of gun he had carried in Iraq. “He said he slept with his gun over there, and he needed it here,” she recalls.

Then Ryan returned home in 2007, and he too began to show signs of severe strain. He couldn’t sleep, abused drugs and alcohol, and suffered extreme jitters.

“He was so anxious, he couldn’t stand to sit next to you and hear you breathe,” DeBow remembers. A talented filmmaker, Ryan turned the lens on himself to record heartbreaking video of his own sleeplessness, his own irrational behavior — even his own mock suicide.

One reason for veteran suicides (and crimes, which get far more attention) may be post-traumatic stress disorder, along with a related condition, traumatic brain injury. Ryan suffered a concussion in an explosion in Iraq, and Michael finally had traumatic brain injury diagnosed two months ago.

Estimates of post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury vary widely, but a ballpark figure is that the problems afflict at least one in five veterans from Afghanistan and Iraq. One study found that by their third or fourth tours in Iraq or Afghanistan, more than one-quarter of soldiers had such mental health problems.

Preliminary figures suggest that being a veteran now roughly doubles one’s risk of suicide. For young men ages 17 to 24, being a veteran almost quadruples the risk of suicide, according to a study in The American Journal of Public Health.

Michael and Ryan, like so many other veterans, sought help from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Eric Shinseki, the secretary of veterans affairs, declined to speak to me, but the most common view among those I interviewed was that the V.A. has improved but still doesn’t do nearly enough about the suicide problem.

“It’s an epidemic that is not being addressed fully,” said Bob Filner, a Democratic congressman from San Diego and the senior Democrat on the House Veterans Affairs Committee. “We could be doing so much more.”

To its credit, the V.A. has established a suicide hotline and appointed suicide-prevention coordinators. It is also chipping away at a warrior culture in which mental health concerns are considered sissy. Still, veterans routinely slip through the cracks. Last year, the United States Court of Appeals in San Francisco excoriated the V.A. for “unchecked incompetence” in dealing with veterans’ mental health.

Patrick Bellon, head of Veterans for Common Sense, which filed the suit in that case, says the V.A. has genuinely improved but is still struggling. “There are going to be one million new veterans in the next five years,” he said. “They’re already having trouble coping with the population they have now, so I don’t know what they’re going to do.”

Last month, the V.A.’s own inspector general reported on a 26-year-old veteran who was found wandering naked through traffic in California. The police tried to get care for him, but a V.A. hospital reportedly said it couldn’t accept him until morning. The young man didn’t go in, and after a series of other missed opportunities to get treatment, he stepped in front of a train and killed himself.

Likewise, neither Michael nor Ryan received much help from V.A. hospitals. In early 2010, Ryan began to talk more about suicide, and DeBow rushed him to emergency rooms and pleaded with the V.A. for help. She says she was told that an inpatient treatment program had a six-month waiting list. (The V.A. says it has no record of a request for hospitalization for Ryan.)

“Ryan was hurting, saying he was going to end it all, stuff like that,” recalls his best friend, Steve Schaeffer, who served with him in Iraq and says he has likewise struggled with the V.A. to get mental health services. “Getting an appointment is like pulling teeth,” he said. “You get an appointment in six weeks when you need it today.”

While Ryan was waiting for a spot in the addiction program, in May 2010, he died of a drug overdose. It was listed as an accidental death, but family and friends are convinced it was suicide.

The heartbreak of Ryan’s death added to his brother’s despair, but DeBow says Michael is now making slow progress. “He is able to get out of bed most mornings,” she told me. “That is a huge improvement.” Michael asked not to be interviewed: he wants to look forward, not back.

As for DeBow, every day is a struggle. She sent two strong, healthy men to serve her country, and now her family has been hollowed in ways that aren’t as tidy, as honored, or as easy to explain as when the battle wounds are physical. I wanted to make sure that her family would be comfortable with the spotlight this article would bring, so I asked her why she was speaking out.

“When Ryan joined the Army, he was willing to sacrifice his life for his country,” she said. “And he did, just in a different way, without the glory. He would want it this way.”

“My home has been a nightmare,” DeBow added through tears, recounting how three of Ryan’s friends in the military have killed themselves since their return. “You hear my story, but it’s happening everywhere.”

We refurbish tanks after time in combat, but don’t much help men and women exorcise the demons of war. Presidents commit troops to distant battlefields, but don’t commit enough dollars to veterans’ services afterward. We enlist soldiers to protect us, but when they come home we don’t protect them.

“Things need to change,” DeBow said, and her voice broke as she added: “These are guys who went through so much. If anybody deserves help, it’s them.”

I invite you to comment on this column on my blog, On the Ground. Please also join me on Facebook and Google+, watch my YouTube videos and follow me on Twitter.


  1. DaveL says:

    “It’s an epidemic that is not being addressed fully,” said Bob Filner, a Democratic congressman from San Diego and the senior Democrat on the House Veterans Affairs Committee. “We could be doing so much more.”

    But, but….isn’t government run healthcare supposed to be the answer for everybody?


    16th April 2012 at 12:48 pm

  2. Stucky says:

    Higher suicide. Higher drug use. Higher divorce rate. Higher depression. Higher violent crime rate. It ain’t easy being a military guy.

    And there will be an increase of one million vets in the next five years?

    Oh, boy. Are we in for fun times when TSHTF, or what?


    16th April 2012 at 1:02 pm

  3. flash says:

    Bomb Iran!!!


    16th April 2012 at 1:11 pm

  4. flash says:

    Title: Soldier Side
    Album: Hypnotize (Released @ November 22, 2005)


    Dead men lying on the bottom of the grave
    Wondering when Savior comes
    Is he gonna be saved
    Maybe you’re a sinner into your alternate life
    Maybe you’re a joker, maybe you deserve to die

    They were crying when their sons left
    God is wearing black
    He’s gone so far to find no hope
    He’s never coming back

    They were crying when their sons left
    All young men must go
    He’s come so far to find the truth
    He’s never going home

    Young men standing on the top of their own graves
    Wondering when Jesus comes
    Are they gonna be saved
    Cruelty to the winner, Bishop tells the King his lies
    Maybe you’re a mourner, maybe you deserve to die

    They were crying when their sons left
    God is wearing black
    He’s gone so far to find no hope
    He’s never coming back

    They were crying when their sons left
    All young men must go
    He’s come so far to find no truth
    He’s never going home

    Welcome to the Soldier Side
    Where there’s no one here but me
    People all grow up to die
    There is no one here but me

    Welcome to the Soldier Side
    Where there’s no one here but me
    People on the soldier’s side
    There is no one here but me


    16th April 2012 at 1:16 pm

  5. flash says:

    Best war protest song ever written….It’s too bad that every time someone posts the rare 1963 version the assholes at Sony have it yanked.

    LOL..found it…someone posted John Brown under another name.


    16th April 2012 at 1:35 pm

  6. ssgconway says:

    At the end of the original version of ‘The Manchurian Candidate,’ Frank Sinatra’s character sits at a table and reads from a book of CMH citations, and then looks away and composes one for his friend, Raymond Shaw, who committed suicide after foiling a coup plot based on his having been tampered with as a POW. It comes to mind when reading of these stories. These vets gave their lives for their country while they were still ‘living.’
    Coincidentally, the latest edition of the Armed Forces Journal carries a piece on the Bonus Army and the parallels to it and vets joining OWS, etc. Civilian distance from military life, and neglect of vets once they take off the uniform, is not a new thing. VA is improving, but not fast enough, as this story mentions. Where is this, in terms of public outcry, in this election cycle?


    16th April 2012 at 3:22 pm

  7. flash says:

    You have a row of dominoes set up; you knock over the first one, and what will happen to the last one is that it will go over very quickly,
    Dwight D. Eisenhower

    Yep, Ike was right, so goes France.
    That Ike musta’ been some kinda’ savant.
    A powerful revival of France’s radical left, led by Jean-Luc Mélenchon, a former socialist minister, and with a resurgent Communist party at its core, looks poised to be one of the most striking outcomes of next Sunday’s first round of voting in the country’s presidential election.


    16th April 2012 at 3:39 pm

  8. flash says:

    Prevent soldiers from taking their own lives by helping provoking someone else to do it for them.
    Bomb Iran , now!
    Russia Is Massing Troops On Iran’s Northern Border And Waiting For A Western Attack
    F. Michael Maloof|April 09, 2012|


    WASHINGTON – The Russian military anticipates that an attack will occur on Iran by the summer and has developed an action plan to move Russian troops through neighboring Georgia to stage in Armenia, which borders on the Islamic republic, according to informed Russian sources.

    Russian Security Council head Viktor Ozerov said that Russian General Military Headquarters has prepared an action plan in the event of an attack on Iran.

    Dmitry Rogozin, who recently was the Russian ambassador to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO, warned against an attack on Iran.

    “Iran is our neighbor,” Rogozin said. “If Iran is involved in any military action, it’s a direct threat to our security.” Rogozin now is the deputy Russian prime minister and is regarded as anti-Western. He oversees Russia’s defense sector.

    Because of the impact on Russian vital interests in the region, sources say that Russian preparations for such an attack began two years ago when Russian Military Base 102 in Gyumri, Armenia, was modernized. It is said to occupy a major geopolitical position in the region.

    Families of Russian servicemen from the Russian base at Gyumri in Armenia close to the borders of Georgia and Turkey already have been evacuated, Russian sources say.


    16th April 2012 at 4:42 pm

  9. Oleguy says:

    Mentally combat changes a person. If you have never been there it is hard to understand. I am not going to get into the service and where I seerved nor do I expect thanks. I just want people to know you will always be changed for the rest of your life.

    This is coming to everyone soon wherre you sit waiting for appointments for your problems I know I still sit and wait for them. Once the governement completely takes over the healthcare your basically screwed. I am looking forward it too it actually so the rest of the American can actually see what we go through. Guess what they are now going to increase prices and cut benefit to wounded service people. I know some will celebrate their actions. This saddens me. Regardless of what you think about the military industrial complex the people who serve in combat areas really need our help. I am sure someone will come and call me a jerk and that is ok. I and many others if you asked them are thankful we are alive and have a different perspective on death now.

    The reason for the increase in medical expenses at the VA for the dummies that do not get it is duh we have alot of wounded soldiers and we have people that are changed in a way it is hard to explain. Death and destruction is not normal even for service people. Either you lock it away in some deep dark place in your mind and live a normal life or you do what some people this article is describing.

    Salute to them and those that will follow. Not easy to type this one.


    16th April 2012 at 5:17 pm

  10. Zarathustra says:

    I don’t remember where I read it, but in Vietnam there was an expression for a soldier who served more than two tours. Batshit crazy. I interviewed one of them for my high school newspaper.


    16th April 2012 at 6:03 pm

  11. Ron says:

    Since our country isnt under attack(well mabe by our own government) i have a hard time understanding why people would volunteer to fight people who dont even wear a uniform.
    I guess some people are desperate for a job? Just imagine a tonbstone,Blah Blah lays here killed by an illiterate arab who thought he was defending his country from satan,courtesy of an rusty ak47 bought at a local market for five bucks.
    The whole concept of why we were going to war and how it would end dosent truly exsist.
    It was all a bad idea.


    16th April 2012 at 9:01 pm

  12. Kill Bill says:

    Thx Oleguy.

    I have a few family members that served during war times. It does change a person. No matter how much war is romanticized there are serious consequences when returning to society.


    16th April 2012 at 10:11 pm

  13. AKAnon says:

    My oldest did an extended tour in Iraq some years back. He wasn’t the most squared-away when he went in, but he experienced shit no one should be exposed to, and he came out more fucked up than ever. Yeah, he is a mess (but finally making some progress), but my grand-daughters didn’t sign up for this shit. I was pretty gung-ho during Bush I’s first gulf war. I have gotten over it. Shit is fucked up and bulllshit.


    17th April 2012 at 12:05 am

  14. Zarathustra says:

    I am so thankful I graduated from High School a couple of months after Saigon fell. I wanted nothing to do with the military and have never regretted it for a second.


    17th April 2012 at 12:09 am

  15. flash says:

    Ole guy
    I don’t believe anyone here is faulting the soldier for any negative societal, spiritual or economical consequences due to the warmongering of Empire.
    The shame of guilt should and will be placed on the leadership of Empire , if not by We the People then by God.
    The Empire can do no more than lie,deceive and destroy , it’ the nature of the beast.,
    Expect nothing else.

    For example the Empire of Lies has now concluded a study that shows that PTSD is inherited.It’s genetic you see therefore , the horrors of war cannot be all that traumatic to the individual,


    Study Finds PTSD Gene Link

    Week of April 16, 2012

    Stars and Stripes reports that a recent study has identified the genes that are linked to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). “The existence of a study population with clear genetic links, common family histories, and exposure to a single trauma allowed researchers an unusual opportunity to distill information about genes’ role in PTSD,” said UCLA psychiatrist Armen K. Goenjian, who led the study. An abstract of the study is available in the April 5, 2012 online edition of the Journal of Affective Disorders.

    For more facts on PTSD from Military.com’s Ms. Vicki, visit the Military.com Spouse and Family Center.


    17th April 2012 at 5:51 am

  16. Novista says:

    I’m wondering how many military came out of the Good War all fucked up. In World War One there was much talk of shell shock. Much later, the buzzwords were Agent Orange, Golf War syndrome, etc. WW2 feels like it was painted over by unit cohesion as a protective measure, although ‘combat stress’ is mentioned.

    One of my uncles came back but not to home … it was years later, some friend of the family saw him working on a fishing boat.

    Another thing I recall, early 50s, acquaintance of my father’s rather matter-of-fact said his job was to ‘hang back and shoot anyone who broke and ran’ … whether BS or reality, no idea. But he was dead ‘of a heart attack’ a year later, in his forties.. I always wondered it that was so.

    Maybe treating cannon fodder poorly is a constant.


    17th April 2012 at 7:11 am

  17. flash says:

    The thousand yard stare never heals.




    17th April 2012 at 7:59 am

  18. flash says:

    Bastards who foment war always manage to avoid activity engaging in the killing.

    With Democrats attacking the elder Bush’s own running mate, Dan Quayle, for joining the Indiana National Guard during Vietnam, Sununu’s claim was a natural counteroffensive. But it boomeranged. It turned out that George W. Bush, at the time a senior staff member in his father’s campaign, had served in the same Houston unit as Lloyd Bentsen III and was recruited the same year by the same man, Colonel Walter “Buck” Staudt. That unit, the 147th Fighter Interceptor Group, tasked with defending the Gulf Coast, was well-known as a “champagne unit” because it housed not only Bentsen and Bush but a number of other sons of the Texas elite, such as John Connally III, son of the former Texas governor and Nixon treasury secretary; Al Hill, the grandson of oil tycoon H. L. Hunt; and several members of the Dallas Cowboys.


    17th April 2012 at 8:03 am

  19. Stucky says:


    You mentioned “Golf War Syndrome”.

    Isn’t that what ails SSS?


    17th April 2012 at 8:53 am

  20. Stucky says:

    “Maybe treating cannon fodder poorly is a constant.” —– Novista

    Cannon fodder. Interesting, that. I just came across this yesterday. Thought I would share it.


    “Not only have suicidal attacks been carried out for thousands of years, but suicide bomber attacks have been occurring since the mid-1600’s. This is not a new phenomena.

    The British military essentially invented the modern suicide bomber. It began with an extraordinarily callous British decision to create a class of cannon-fodder soldiers. They were called “Grenadiers,” after the French word for grenade. The initial, calculating idea was that it was expensive to train and equip soldiers who would die quickly in the opening phases of the battle, so the plan was to forcibly recruit uneducated Britons, give them grenades and send them out to attack fortified enemy positions. The casualty rates were enormous, but that protected the “real” soldiers who then followed the grenadiers into battle.

    The grenadier casualties were so high that it was considered near-suicidal to participate. These soldiers were called “forlorn hope” troops. The Dutch called them “verloren hoop” or lost heap soldiers, while in French they were “les enfants perdus” or simply, the lost children. On June 17, 1775, American revolutionaries had their first encounter with these disposable soldiers. British General William Howe used them in the first wave of his attack up Bunker Hill in Boston.”


    17th April 2012 at 9:16 am

  21. flash says:

    Ole guy,
    If you’re a Vietnam Vet , you might enjoy this or even if your not.



    17th April 2012 at 10:26 am

  22. Ron says:

    Stucky,every soldier has an predicted life expectancy in a combat situation.Ill admit your example was preety bad.The first waves hitting a beach are really bad.
    Im a big supporter of air power,i dont see the need for troops to die when large bombs can do the job.I guess the enemy is lucky im not in charge.Iraq and Afganistan are just plain stupid.
    We should take violent felons from prison and air drop them into combat zones wearing an uniform made to look like an american flag.Give them weapons and show this on tv,live.Im kind of bored with the current circus stuff.(just the part about being tossed from a plane against theyre will would be priceless)
    Im just waiting for the Iran war.should just screw up everything,even worse than it is now.


    17th April 2012 at 12:47 pm

  23. Viet Vet-70 says:

    Thank you for the site; I feel for the current vets, especially the ones that have had to serve multiple tours. You see things in combat, you will never see here at home and no TV show, nor movie can come close, although Platoon was fairly realistic, but only 2 hours or so long, try it for a year tour. Until the ‘neo-cons’ are forced to serve, we will have these senseless, wasteful wars and a number of physically as well as emotionally hurt men and women.


    17th April 2012 at 12:56 pm

  24. Novista says:

    stucky, thanks for the share.


    18th April 2012 at 7:08 am

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