Chief Warrant Officer William Howell was a 15-year Army Special Forces veteran who had seen combat duty all over the world. Sgt. 1st Class Andre McDaniel was a military accountant. Spc. Jeremy Wilson repaired electronics.
They had little in common, other than having served in Iraq with the 10th Special Forces Group based at Fort Carson, Colo. They did not know each other, and they had vastly different duties.
Each, however, committed suicide shortly after returning home, all within about a 17-month period.
Steve Robinson, a former Army Ranger and veterans’ advocate, said he suspects there were problems in the men’s unit – namely, a macho refusal to acknowledge stress and seek help.
“It could be that there’s a climate there that creates the stigma which prevents people from coming forward,” said Robinson, executive director of the National Gulf War Resource Center. “The mentality of this particular group seemed to be ‘Ignore what you think and feel and keep doing your job and don’t talk to me about that (expletive) combat stress reaction stuff.'”
The Army says its overall suicide rate in 2003 was 12.8 per 100,000 active-duty soldiers, while the rate in the general U.S. population was 10.5 per 100,000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Military officials contend the 2003 figure for the Army was skewed by a spike in suicides among soldiers in Iraq and Kuwait; the 2004 rate was 11 per 100,000, Army spokeswoman Maj. Elizabeth Robbins said. An Army surgeon general’s report said the suicide rate among soldiers sent to Iraq and Kuwait in 2004 was 8.5 per 100,000.