The Los Angeles Times reports:
During 27 years in the Army, Ben Mericle survived tours in Bosnia, the Gulf War and Iraq. But it was only after coming home to West Palm Beach in 2006 that he came close to dying — by his own hand.
“I just wanted to disappear,” said Mericle, 50, recalling the many times he considered mixing a fatal cocktail from his prescribed medications and the prodigious amounts of alcohol he was drinking.
“I had so much anger. I wasn’t sleeping, had nightmares when I did, flashbacks. It was survivor’s guilt.”
Some do not survive, leading Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to identify the “emergency issue” facing the American military: a rise in the number of suicides.
On Wednesday, President Obama announced he will reverse a longstanding policy and begin sending condolence letters to the families of service members who commit suicide while deployed to a combat zone.
“This decision was made after a difficult and exhaustive review of the former policy, and I did not make it lightly,” Obama said in a statement. “This issue is emotional, painful, and complicated, but these Americans served our nation bravely. They didn’t die because they were weak. And the fact that they didn’t get the help they needed must change.”
Last year, 301 active-duty Army, Reserve and National Guard soldiers committed suicide, compared with 242 in 2009, according to Army figures.