Monday, February 9, 2009 begins "Coming Home" Series

Death in the USA: The Army's fatal neglect

Returning U.S. combat soldiers are committing suicide and murder in alarming numbers. In a special series, Salon uncovers the habitual mistreatment behind the preventable deaths.

Editor's note: This is the introduction to a weeklong series of stories called "Coming Home." Read the first story in the series here; see photos of Heidi Lieberman painting over her son's suicide note, and a copy of the "Hurt Feelings Report," here.

By Mark Benjamin and Michael de Yoanna

Feb. 9, 2009 | FORT CARSON, Colo. -- Preventable suicides. Avoidable drug overdoses. Murders that never should have happened. Four years after Salon exposed medical neglect at Walter Reed Army Medical Center that ultimately grew into a national scandal, serious problems with the Army's healthcare system persist and the situation, at least at some Army posts, continues to deteriorate.

This story is no longer just about lack of medical care. It's far worse than sighting mold and mouse droppings in the barracks. Late last month the Army released data showing the highest suicide rate among soldiers in three decades. At least 128 soldiers committed suicide in 2008. Another 15 deaths are still under investigation as potential suicides. "Why do the numbers keep going up?" Army Secretary Pete Geren said at a Jan. 29 Pentagon news conference. "We can’t tell you." On Feb. 5, the Army announced it suspects 24 soldiers killed themselves last month, more than died in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan combined.

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