SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

October 17, 2012

Column: Angels everywhere

“Do not forget to

entertain strangers, for

by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.”

@quoteAttribution:— Hebrews 13:2

For the last four years, I have spent five amazing days during the month of October at a national conference with military families in the throes of grief. As you can imagine, death in the military is no different than it is in civilian life. Family members and friends are left with the same emotions, whether military or civilian. Everyone experiences levels of shock, anger, sadness, numbness and emptiness. Everyone feels something crack open in the lining of their hearts. Everyone is bereaved. Even if the person who died served an entire lifetime in the military, grief for survivors is still the same as grief for you and me.

But imagine if that death were suicide.

In the last four years, suicide in the military has become one of the greatest concerns of our national security. In July 2012, there was a 22 percent increase of reported suicides in the U.S. Army alone since July 2011. FYI: These numbers do not include Army veterans who have returned from duty with PTSD and are trying to survive as civilians with families. They also do not reflect other branches of the military.

For most of us, suicide in the military is almost inconceivable. How could someone who has volunteered to join the armed forces kill themselves? Aren’t they the proud and brave? Aren’t they the ones who return home with parades and honorable pins and badges? Believe it or not, it is precisely these proud and brave and honorable men and women who are killing themselves. Suicide in the military is a reality of our culture and society right now. And one that we civilians, both religious, nonreligious and spiritual, are called to pay attention to with our eyes and hearts wide open.

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