Army Suicides And Those Left Behind

By WGBH/PRI Staff

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Nov. 3, 2011

colin kilcoyne

Colin Kilcoyne took his own life at the age of 25. He served as an infantryman in Iraq. Listen to the interview with his mother on "The World." (Photo courtesy of the Kilcoyne family/"The World")


BOSTON — A new report by the Center for a New American Security says that from 2005 to 2010, a U.S. service member took his or her own life every 36 hours. 

According to the report, July 2011 set a new high-water mark for suicides in the U.S. Army, with the deaths of 33 active and reserve component service members reported as suicides. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that a veteran commits suicide every 80 minutes. 
 
The news came as no surprise to Jason Mazoula of Northampton, a former U.S. infantryman who served in Iraq and is now camping out in downtown Boston's Dewey Square as part of the Occupy Wall Street movement. 
 
He recalled hearing in mid-2010 that “it was the first month ever that there were more suicides in a combat zones than combat deaths,” he told WGBH’s Phillip Martin earlier this week. 
 
Mazoula noted that in addition, a significant number of the homeless population are veterans. “That’s not a coincidence,” he said. Some of his veteran friends are facing homelessness, joblessness and drug abuse.
 
According to the report, former service members make up 20 percent of suicides in the U.S., even though only 1 percent of the population has served in the military.
 
Kathy Kilcoyne lost her son Colin, an Iraq veteran from Northborough, Mass., when he took his own life in January 2011 at the age of 25. She spoke with “The World” anchor Lisa Mullins about her son's experiences.
 
When Colin was a child, “We would have to tell him to turn off the History Channel,” she said. Despite the seriousness that led him to enlist at the age of 17, “He had a wonderful sense of humor. He was a character… he loved life.”
 
Colin, an infantryman, won a combat medal for his efforts in a firefight on his very first night in the war zone.
 
Still, some of his actions haunted him. “He felt terrible about the children of the parents he had killed,” Kilcoyne said. On the anniversary of certain events he “went into a spiral.” After he returned, Colin told her, “I can’t stand the nights. I can’t take the nightmares.”
 
The Center for a New American Security report’s recommendations include keeping Army units together longer after deployment and erasing the cultural stigma that may keep service members from seeking treatment.



THE WORLD: MILITARY SUICIDES A SERIOUS PROBLEM
NPR: A MARINE'S DEATH AND THE FAMILY HE LEFT BEHIND
WGBH NEWS: FOR VETERANS DAY, HELP WITH JOBS
GREATER BOSTON: VETERANS AND JOBS

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