Between Christmas and New Year's 2006, Five U.S. Soldiers Committed Suicide
Many believe President George W. Bush's newly announced plan to send 21,500 additional U.S. soldiers to Iraq will involve the redeployment of soldiers suffering from severe trauma. Press reports indicate Bush wants to implement his "surge" by speeding up previously scheduled redeployments and extending the tours of soldiers already in the field of battle.
That reality has increasing numbers of soldiers taking matters into their own hands.
Between Christmas and New Year's 2006, five U.S. soldiers committed suicide after being informed they'd been ordered to serve an additional tour in Iraq. In Iraq itself, the military announced on Dec. 30 that soldier Michael Crutchfield of Stockton, California killed himself north of the capital, Baghdad.
The day of his death, he e-mailed his foster brother and confidant, Johnny Sotello, to relate his pain to the remnants of his family still living in the area.
"As you know, there are more people waiting for me to pull this trigger than there are waiting on my return to the states," Crutchfield wrote in a portion of the message, quoted by the Stockton Record.
"I'm done hurting. All my life I've been hurting... end this pain," Crutchfield wrote at the end of his two-page message.
For Kentucky mom Anita Dennis, the news of increased suicides is hardly surprising. In 2005, Dennis' son, Specialist Darrel Anderson, fled to Canada, saying he could no longer fight in what he called an "illegal war".
In 2004, Anderson says he was ordered to open fire on a car full of innocent civilians. The car had sped through a U.S. military checkpoint, and his commander said it was Army procedure to fire on any vehicle that ran through a traffic stop. Anderson refused the order.
"Darrel was so screwed up in the head when he came back from Iraq, that's why he had to go to Canada," Anderson's mother told IPS. "That was a desperate attempt to save his life because he could not face the military."
Anderson received the Purple Heart for taking shrapnel to protect the rest of his unit from a roadside bomb. Last October, he made the decision to turn himself in to military authorities, and under a special deal, is receiving treatment for his PTSD.
"There was a guy in Darrel's unit that when Darrel got wounded by the roadside bomb, this guy got so freaked out that every time they went out on a mission they left him there playing video games," Dennis said. "Darrel was like, 'This guy's messed up, shouldn't we call his parents? Shouldn't we be getting him treatment?'"
Dennis said her son's commanders refused because giving him treatment would be an admission that things weren't going well.
"So they left him there for three months playing video games," Dennis said.