Obama and Hagel join Harkin to Prevent Troop Suicides

JANUARY 31ST, 2008 | ryan.alexander

The Washington Post reported today that a record number of active duty soldiers committed suicide last year. To help combat this growing problem, Senators Barack Obama and Chuck Hagel joined Senator Tom Harkin to introduce the Armed Forces Suicide Prevention Act in the Senate today.

The legislation would direct the Department of Defense to create a comprehensive suicide prevention program and include annual training for soldiers, improved instruction for field medics, and post deployment assistance. In the House of Representatives, Iowa Congressman Leonard Boswell is introducing a similar bill.

The Washington Post report showed that suicides increased 20% from 2006 and over 2,100 “injured themselves or attempted suicide.” The suicide rate among active duty troops is now the highest on record and it has become increasingly clear that our brave troops need more assistance.

Below are the statements from Senators Tom Harkin, Chuck Hagel, and Barack Obama:

“These startling statistics should serve as a wakeup call that suicide among soldiers and veterans is more than a problem, it is an epidemic,” said Senator Harkin. “Thankfully, our push to provide America’s veterans with a suicide prevention program was heard last year, when the President signed the Joshua Omvig Veterans Suicide Prevention Act into law. But there is more work ahead – especially in serving our active duty military personnel. We can and must act quickly to save our soldiers who are so bravely fighting for our country.”

“Since the beginning of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan there has been a significant increase in suicides among active-duty soldiers. This is a reality our country must face as we are engaged in two conflicts. This legislation will enhance and strengthen the Defense Department’s suicide prevention programs for all active-duty military personnel. It is critical for our service members to be provided with the necessary mental health services they deserve. There can be no higher priority for America than our soldiers and their families,” said Senator Hagel.

“Our nation’s heroes deserve our greatest support and commitment, and we must immediately address the tragic increase in suicide rates among our active-duty service members,” said Senator Obama. “The men and women who serve our country should expect nothing less than world class medical care, treatment, rehabilitation, and counseling services. Suicide can be prevented, and we must do everything we can to help those who are suffering. This bill will help ensure there are comprehensive suicide prevention programs throughout the military, and I commend Senator Harkin’s leadership on this needed legislation.”

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On April 2nd, 2008 at 08:13 PM, Cheryl Draheim Cedar Rapds, IA wrote:

My son is in the Navy and recently served 8 months near Iraq on a submerged nuclear submarine. This is a highly stressful servics at the best of times, but this was hardly the “best of times.” Upon return, he found out that his wife wanted to divorce him and take their child. He has been in the service for nearly 15 years, and isn’t getting much assistance from them. This is a very bad, but only too frequent occurence when these young men return from duty. Not only do they need assistance and support, but the wives/husbands, children and families need more support and understanding while their family member is serving. This need should be particularly addressed as to our “silent service” the submariners serving in places no one is apt to hear about. Thank you for anything you can do to help our military and their families.

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