As the New York Times reported today, the suicide rate among the nation’s active-duty military personnel has “eclipsed the number of troops dying in battle and on pace to set a record annual high since the start of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan more than a decade ago.” Yesterday, the Pentagon released numbers that reveal a service member is committing suicide every day.

Few people realize that the number of veterans of Viet Nam who have died from suicide exceeds the number of troops we lost to combat during that war. As of 2005, some 100,000 veterans had committed suicide, while 58,000 troops died in Vet Nam. Unlike even that awful war, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are claiming our troops through suicide even before the wars have ended.

While we could argue endlessly about the causes- such as repeat deployments, extreme conditions, losing friends to horrifying IED blasts- what is critical NOW is to take action, to intervene immediately with evaluations and counseling, with the full range of healing modalities to provide coping tools and community to our troops. We must wake up and recognize the crisis these suicides are signaling. Our troops are despairing. They feel hopeless and isolated, with no recourse. And their despair will become our own, our nation standing at the precipice of moral disintegration if we do not rescue those who have sacrificed their souls in our names.

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