Remembering Veterans Who Have Committed Suicide

Remember All Our Fallen Veterans

The Veterans Memorial in Rehoboth Beach, DE, is next to the bandstand and is often the site of Veteran Memorial Services during patriotic holidays like Memorial and Labor Day.
The Veterans Memorial in Rehoboth Beach, DE, is next to the bandstand and is often the site of Veteran Memorial Services during patriotic holidays like Memorial and Labor Day. | Source

Remembering Veterans Who Killed Themselves

On Memorial Day and Veteran's Day, Americans remember and honor all veterans who have died in service to their country. Many speeches and prayers are said for our fallen heroes and our physically wounded veterans, but it is doubtful that the same will be done for a particular group of veterans that have traditionally been given little public recognition or awareness- our veterans, both male and female, who have attempted to commit suicide, have succeeded in killing themselves, or are currently at risk for committing suicide.

The case of Capt. E. Alan Brudno, whose name was finally added to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in 2004, is a tragic example of a veteran whose suicide was eventually deemed to be a result of wounds sustained in the combat zone. His story was told during a 2004 Memorial Day ceremony at The Wall:

"On Oct. 18, 1965, while flying a combat mission over North Vietnam, Brudno was forced to eject from his aircraft. He was held as a prisoner of war for seven and a half years during the war period. Brudno was repatriated in February 1973. He died of his wounds when he took his life, on June 3, 1973, less than four months later."

The inclusion of his name on the wall was highly unusual but fell within defined criteria for Wall inclusion. Brudno had endured long-term, severe physical and psychological abuse and torture-related wounds inflicted by the enemy in the defined combat zone and it was deemed that these wounds were a direct cause of his subsequent suicide. At the time his name was added to the wall military officials stressed that the merits of his particular case flowed from its unique circumstances and the decision was not to be broadly interpreted to include post-war deaths that were more distantly based on cases of war-related psychological trauma.

A recent article titled, "Self-Inflicted Deaths Among Women With U.S. Military Service: A Hidden Epidemic?" appeared in the December 2010 journal, Psychiatric Services. The new data shows that women have picked up a trend that has been found in male veterans for years: attempting suicide by the use of guns. Tragically, this means that veterans of both genders are more successful in completing their suicide attempts compared to those who are non-veterans. According to the above study, female veterans are nearly 3 times as likely to commit suicide as civilian women, who generally choose less violent methods of killing themselves.

Sad Iraq USA Army Dedication Video

A Call to Action

Mark Kaplan, DPh, professor of community health at Portland State University and co-author of the aforementioned study concluded that, "The elevated rates of suicide among women veterans should be a call-to-action, especially for clinicians and caregivers, to be aware of warning signs and helpful prevention resources."

And indeed, the author of this hub was inspired to write about this issue after reading about the study in an American Nurses Association newsletter.

Until recently, the Veterans Administration (VA) had denied that veterans' suicidal deaths were an urgent problem that required research, statistic gathering, preventive measures and an overhaul of VA health care policies, but at a Department of Defense (DoD)-VA suicide prevention conference held in Boston on 3/15/11, Deputy Secretary of VA Affairs W. Scott Gould made the following comments: "The suicide rate among male Veterans is almost twice that of the general population. Older Veterans account for most Veteran suicides. These are often men and women overcome by age-related depression. Some are burdened with disabilities and psychic trauma from their time in the service.

But young male Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan have seen some of the highest increases in their suicide rates in the past decade.

We need more research, particularly on the effectiveness of screening programs, cognitive therapies, and educational efforts. We need to keep fighting the stigma attached to seeking mental health care. War is not normal. Veterans see things no man or woman was ever meant to see. They suffer unseen wounds in no ordinary way. There is no shame in having suffered such wounds- and no shame in seeking help in dealing with them. Some veterans perhaps understand this better than others, but many Veterans and non-Veterans still need to be taught that those who do suffer in this way can still lead stable, productive lives while receiving care."

Suicide Warning Signs

According to the VA, recognition of the following warning signs is the key to preventing veteran deaths by suicide. Veterans exhibiting some or all of these warning signs should be evaluated by their physician and/or a mental health provider:

  • Talking about wanting to hurt or kill oneself.
  • Trying to get pills, guns, or other ways to harm oneself.
  • Talking or writing about death, dying or suicide.
  • Hopelessness.
  • Rage, uncontrolled anger, seeking revenge.
  • Acting in a reckless or risky way.
  • Feeling trapped, like there's no way out.
  • Saying or feeling there's no reason for living.

Legislation for Suicide Prevention Passed in 2015

On February 12, 2015, President Obama signed the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act. The purpose of this act is to provide help to US veterans suffering from PTSD.

This legislation provides funding for the study of new trauma treatment strategies as well as for recruiting more mental health practitioners to work with veterans.

The bill's namesake was a Marine Corps veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan who struggled with post traumatic stress disorder and campaigned on behalf of veterans health care. Tragically, he took his own life in 2011 at age 28.

Although this bill is a huge step in the right direction, veteran's groups will be watching closely to see how it's implemented in the coming months and years to ensure the promised help becomes a reality and to see if more legislation is needed to address this issue.

Confidential Help for Veterans and Their Families

The Veterans Crisis Line was established as a partnership between VA, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. It is staffed by caring VA responders, many of whom are veterans themselves and is a Dept. of Veterans Affairs resource that connects Veterans and/or their family members with qualified VA professionals. The Veterans Crisis Line can be reached by dialing 1-800-273-8255 (TALK) and pressing 1 to immediately talk to someone.

Further resources can be found online at the Veterans Page of the National Suicide Prevention Website at: http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/Veterans/Default.aspx This page provides access to the Veterans Confidential Chat, and the Confidential Homeless Veterans Chat twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, and has links to a Veterans Resource Locator where resources for finding suicide prevention coordinators, crisis center, VA medical centers, outpatient clinics, Veterans Benefits Administration offices and vet centers are located.

Reach Out And Help a Veteran

We can honor all our deceased veterans on Memorial Day and Veteran's Day and also reach out to those veterans who are still living and are struggling with the emotional and physical wounds of war. If you know a veteran who seems to be exhibiting the symptoms discussed in this hub please reach out and show them you care by letting them know help is available. A single phone call, or helping them connect online and apply for services may prevent future suicidal deaths. The VA has finally started to address this issue by making it easier than ever to connect with help, but they need ordinary citizens, friends of veterans and family members of veterans to spread the word that resources are available and are easier to access than in years past.

Buy a Book, Help a Veteran

In the fall of 2013 a group of story contributors (including myself), and editors, joined together as volunteers to form the Legacy Archives Foundation which is dedicated to the preservation and archiving of non-fiction stories. The first book in what will become a series is, "Mysterious & Miraculous Book I." It is a collection of true stories which have an element of the supernatural and/or divine intervention at their core. Though the stories are not about veterans, 70% of the book's earnings will go to support the non-profit, K9s for Wounded Warriors Program/Rescue, an organization that assists veterans by rescuing and training K9s to act as service dogs.

For more information about "Mysterious & Miraculous Book I" and how the proceeds will help support veterans suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, click on the link below:

More by this Author


Comments 44 comments

BobbiRant profile image

BobbiRant 5 years ago from New York

A very disturbing hub. It is sad to think these young men and women have such a hard time. Why it has taken the VA so long to reach out is beyond me. But if the military actually had to acknowledge they may be the cause of something, I suppose they might have to be liable for more service related disabilities. Good hub.


Happyboomernurse profile image

Happyboomernurse 5 years ago from South Carolina Author

Thanks for leaving such an insightful comment, BobbiRant. The VA was dragging its feet on this issue for many years and it wasn't until CBS News started gathering statistics and running a series of investigative reports that the VA finally started to address this issue in a substantial way. The series of CBS news reports can be read at http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2010/01/11/national...


KarenBorn2Write profile image

KarenBorn2Write 5 years ago from Lincoln, CA

Thank you SO much for writing this! So many times we take for granted the ones who place themselves in harm's way for us. This piece is a reminder to all of us that they deserve our appreciation more than we'll ever know. The terrible things they endure for our sake, and then generally do not disclose so that we are protected...so noble. Again, thank you for this post.


GNelson profile image

GNelson 5 years ago from Florida

This is part of the hidden cost of war. It is hard to explain what exposure to that violent environment does to a young person. Or to anyone. Getting over or past it takes a lot more than going home.


Happyboomernurse profile image

Happyboomernurse 5 years ago from South Carolina Author

Thanks for leaving a heartfelt comment, KarenBorn2Write. I wrote this hub for the exact reasons you've stated. We need to remember all who have died as a result of war, even those who had psychic wounds so deep that they died of their own hands and it's also vitally important to reach out to veterans who have returned from our wars and help them get the mental health services they need when we observe the signs and symptoms that are listed in this hub. Many times it is the veterans' loved ones who "see" that something is wrong and that a veteran needs help, and I wanted them to know where to call and/or get the required help.


Happyboomernurse profile image

Happyboomernurse 5 years ago from South Carolina Author

Welcome GNelson, and thank you for your insightful comment. I agree that this issue is part of the hidden cost of war and I believe it will continue to take a psychic toll on our veterans and a financial toll on our VA budget for many years to come.

We know that even a single active duty tour can lead to mental health diagnoses such as PTSD but repeated tours, as we've had our military do in Afghanistan and Iraq, greatly increase the chances of a veteran developing mental health issues during, after, and/or in between tours.


cathylynn99 profile image

cathylynn99 5 years ago from northeastern US

other folks who are suicidal can also call the same number, but not press option 1 for veterans, just stay on the line 'til the call is routed to a counselor.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 5 years ago from United States

This is a heartbreaking problem. I hate to think of any veteran committing suicide and I didn't know the number of women had grown so much. This is an excellent hub and we should all be aware of those signs.


Happyboomernurse profile image

Happyboomernurse 5 years ago from South Carolina Author

Thanks for the additional tip Cathylynn99. Yes, any person who is suicidal can call the same number,

1-800-273-8255, but without dialing 1 after it and they will be routed to a regular counselor.

I appreciate your taking time to let the readers know this important point.


Happyboomernurse profile image

Happyboomernurse 5 years ago from South Carolina Author

Hi Pamela99,

Thanks for taking time to read and comment on this hub. I hope it does help people recognize suicidal symptoms. You're right, it is tragic that any veteran would take their own lives after surviving a war, but it is only by becoming aware of the problem that we can get male and female veterans struggling with suicidal urges the help they need to prevent more deaths.


cardelean profile image

cardelean 5 years ago from Michigan

A very touching hub. We definitely do not hear enough about the post war problems that many veterans have. You have written a very important hub with great resources.


Happyboomernurse profile image

Happyboomernurse 5 years ago from South Carolina Author

Thanks so much for the feedback Cardelean, I hope the resources get utilized. I'm sure many don't know the help that's out there, and there others who have been frustrated in the past and may be leary to try to get help.


prasetio30 profile image

prasetio30 5 years ago from malang-indonesia

Nice hub from you. They are really heroes for the country. I believe you certainly proud with them. I am glad to know this from you. Rated up!

Prasetio


Happyboomernurse profile image

Happyboomernurse 5 years ago from South Carolina Author

Thank you so much Prasetio30 for your kind and compassionate comments. The psychological wounds of war are indeed as devastating as the physical wounds and I believe that our fallen veterans should still be recognized and honored for their service to our country, even if they later and most tragically succombed by their own hands.


Healing Touch profile image

Healing Touch 5 years ago from Minnetonka, MN

Great and useful hub.

As a person in the mental health field, I think the trauma needs to be addressed before they even go to war and learn all the signs first. Too many good people die like this


Happyboomernurse profile image

Happyboomernurse 5 years ago from South Carolina Author

Thanks, Healing Touch, for your insightful comment gleaned from your training in the mental health field. I agree this should be addressed even before they go to war so that the signs can be more readily recognized and treated.


Ashantina profile image

Ashantina 5 years ago

These folks not only put their physical selves at risk for the love of their country, but their minds and souls also. One cannot even fathom the effects, trauma or burden they endure probably often in silence. And as observers, we really take their selflessness for granted.....

A very moving and important hub happybnurse. Thank you for writing and sharing this!


Happyboomernurse profile image

Happyboomernurse 5 years ago from South Carolina Author

I so totally agree with what you've said, Ashantina: "One cannot even fathom the effects, trauma or burden they endure probably often in silence. And as observers, we really take their selflessness for granted....."

Thanks for adding an insightful comment that gave heartfelt sentiments to what I've written in this hub.


kimh039 profile image

kimh039 5 years ago

Thanks for the well written and well put together hub on suicide among veterans, Happyboomernurse. Suicide in general is a major "public health" problem throughout the entire world, and a lot of people suffer silently with all kinds of trauma. Some end their lives in suicide and some to addictions. It is especially sad when a veteran suicides after serving his/her country. It is also sad when anyone feels so hopeless and helpless about life. Life itself is difficult for a lot of people without the added brutality of war. I could go on, but I won't:) Thank you Happyboomernurse. I like your writing style.


Happyboomernurse profile image

Happyboomernurse 5 years ago from South Carolina Author

Welcome Kimh039,

Thanks for leaving a comment that augments this hub and for your ongoing support of my writing. It means a lot to me because I admire your own writing so much.

I totally agree that suicide is also a general public health problem and is not confined to veterans. It's just that veterans in the United States have a higher rate of suicide, because as you say war is brutal, and also because veterans tend to use guns when they attempt suicide and guns are more lethal than other attempt methods.

Thank you for your own service to our country and for the mental health counseling you do for others. I just remembered that you yourself did a very informative hub on suicide in the general population and I'm going to try to make a link to it from this hub.


Judowolf 5 years ago

Happyboomernurse,

Excellent article on a subject that for many years has been buried along with PTSD, which often leads to suicide. I am a Vietnam era veteran and was a medic when the prisoners of war returned after the war. They received the best medical care but the psychological care was below standards resulting in suicide. The troops coming back from Iraq and Afganistan are facing a similar situation as Vietnam veterans due to multiple deployments. The signs to watch for are excellent but unfortunately the loved ones of these military personnel miss them. What I have found is if a person wants to commit suicide they never tell anyone, and use firearms. Our government will send men and women into combat, praise them when they are killed or wounded, pour tons of money into helping the physical wounds, but the mental scars are never addressed except in committees, and as we know this is just a way to blow smoke up our buttocks and keep us quiet. Our government wants the glory of victory but every military person who commits suicide is the price we pay for this victory.

Wayne aka Judowolf


Happyboomernurse profile image

Happyboomernurse 5 years ago from South Carolina Author

Thank you for your service to our country, Judowolf. As you have stated, the VA has been more successful in its treatment of physical wounds than in mental health wounds.

As a wife of a Vietnam veteran who has also watched other Vietnam veterans suffering from PTSD (sometimes being unaware that they have it), I am acutely aware of the devastating and ongoing psychological effects of war. One of the problems with PTSD is that veterans themselves are numb to their feelings and even if they do eventually become aware of them they tend to bottle things up inside rather than seek treatment. Also, many are afraid to seek mental health assistance because of the stigma, or if they are pursuing a military career they are afraid it will be a black mark on their record.

I appreciate your taking time to leave such a comprehensive and insightful comment and look forward to reading more of your own hubs, especially related to Hospice care.


skellie profile image

skellie 5 years ago from Adelaide

I could not have thought of a better subject, to write about. Thankyou for bringing it to peoples attention. All veteran's should be honored! Each of them put their lives at risk for their countries, no matter the cause of death.

We were born, from men and women of courage - let's not cheapen it through ignorance.

More needs to be done to help these people, before they take their lives.

Awesome and up


Happyboomernurse profile image

Happyboomernurse 5 years ago from South Carolina Author

Thanks so much for your heartfelt comment, Skellie. I totally agree.


glassvisage profile image

glassvisage 5 years ago from Northern California

This is an excellent Hub and a great resource for veterans and their families. Thank you for this information for Memorial Day. Many of our veterans face things that many of us will never completely understand. I know that there are people in my family who couldn't really talk about their experiences in service with their loved ones.


Happyboomernurse profile image

Happyboomernurse 5 years ago from South Carolina Author

Hi Glassvisage,

I appreciate your compassionate comment and agree with everything you said. Those of us who haven't served can make a point to thank and/or help a veteran we know, not just on Memorial Day, but every day throughout the year.


Kristine Manley profile image

Kristine Manley 5 years ago from Atlanta, GA

What a wonderful Hub to help us remember our precious service men and women we lose to suicide. May we never forget them.


Happyboomernurse profile image

Happyboomernurse 5 years ago from South Carolina Author

Hi Christine,

Thanks for remembering and honoring these veterans by taking time to read and comment on my hub.

My main concern is that we reach out to the emotionally wounded veterans who are still with us but suffering from depression. I hope that the resources in this hub will be used to link some of them to the help they need and deserve.


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 5 years ago from North Carolina

Congratulations, Gail--this wonderful hub is a featured story on the front page. Didn't know if you were aware of this. :)


Happyboomernurse profile image

Happyboomernurse 5 years ago from South Carolina Author

Hi Denise,

I saw it late last night but didn't know it was still featured. I'm glad because this issue means a lot to me and to many veterans and their families.

Thanks for being so observant and for the kind words about this hub. As always, I appreciate your feedback and support.


A.A. Zavala profile image

A.A. Zavala 5 years ago from Texas

An insightful hub for a call to action. Suicide is an insidious, silent killer among our troops. The burden that creates the condition for these thoughts is great. The military has made significant advances in saving the lives of soldiers, but has come up short on the emotional remediation of them. Thank you for shedding light on this issue.


Happyboomernurse profile image

Happyboomernurse 5 years ago from South Carolina Author

Welcome, A.A. Zavala, and thank you for your insightful comment and your own service to our country. Coming from one who has grown up in a military family and served time in the military, your comment holds a lot of weight and I appreciate your taking time to write it.


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 5 years ago from Houston, Texas

Such an important hub and with the redeployments happening over and over again, the possibility of more suicides will just be getting worse along with increasing homelessness which was recently featured on a news program. Up, useful, tweeted and FB so that more people can read and become aware of this.


Happyboomernurse profile image

Happyboomernurse 5 years ago from South Carolina Author

Thanks so much Peggy, Like you, I fear that with all the redeployments the risk of suicides and/or PTSD is going to get higher. I appreciate your passing this on.


Barbsbitsnpieces profile image

Barbsbitsnpieces 5 years ago from Napoleon, Henry County, Ohio, USA

@Happyboomernurse...Thanks for doing this well researched and emotional Hub on a topic that should concern us all. All life is precious, and the lives of our veterans are stiffly challenged by their training for war, and the wars they wage for our sakes. To return to society a whole person after undergoing such mindboggling h... (plus unthinkable mental and physical torture) must surely be the most difficult task anyone can endure.


Happyboomernurse profile image

Happyboomernurse 5 years ago from South Carolina Author

Hi Barbsbitsnpieces,

Thanks so much for your compassionate, insightful comment. Yes, this is a topic dear to my heart and I so agree that we owe so much to our veterans and need to concern ourselves with how they're treated when they come back home.

I appreciate you taking time to leave feedback on this hub. My goal in writing it was to bring more awareness of this heartbreaking issue.


Ardie profile image

Ardie 5 years ago from Neverland

This was very moving and eye-opening indeed. I am guilty of not remembering those fallen veterans who attempted/committed suicide - never crossed my mind even though I knew one. Thank you for bringing attention to this!!


Happyboomernurse profile image

Happyboomernurse 5 years ago from South Carolina Author

Hi Ardie,

Thank you for reading it and leaving a heart felt comment. Until the past few years this issue wasn't openly discussed or studied. I think it's good that more people are becoming aware and can try to reach out to a veteran struggling with depression.


MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 5 years ago from South Africa

Thanks, Happyboomer, for this profound and informative article about PTSD. Years ago it was merely called Reactive Depression. When triggered, I tend to change promptly into a rebel making radical changes. I literally turn the world upside down and force all involved to make radical changes. Afterwards my actions in PTSD-mode seem to look like fire in the woods – destructive, but apparently to make room for new growth. Fearing the depths of depression, I know by now when to acquire medical treatment in time. Thanks again; I’ve voted this UP in all ways. BTW, I take my hat off for all nurses and doctors and all people who are daily forced to witness and handle trauma.


Happyboomernurse profile image

Happyboomernurse 5 years ago from South Carolina Author

Hi Martie,

I appreciate your thought-provoking comment and the open sharing of your own response to personal triggers. I'm in awe of how clearly you're able to "see" the whole picture when it comes to your reactions. Yes, actions in PTSD-mode can look and even be like fire in the woods but what amazed me in your situation is that you are also able to see positive new growth that rises up out of the ashes. Of course the problem with fires is that they destroy everything in their wake, thus it's good that you've learned how to acquire medical treatment in time to prevent slipping into the depths of despair. Thanks for adding such a profound comment to this hub.

Help is out there but too many are unable to reach out and accept it. I hope what you've shared in this comment will help someone else reach out for assistance.


ubanichijioke profile image

ubanichijioke 5 years ago from Lagos

A very moving, sad and sympathetic piece elaborating the sufferings and trials of man especially our fallen heroes. Thrilling and well written. My heart goes out to them all. Be blessed


Happyboomernurse profile image

Happyboomernurse 5 years ago from South Carolina Author

Hi Ubanichijioke,

Yes, it's very sad and my heart goes out to them too. Hopefully if any readers know a Vet who seems depressed they can use the information in the hub to help find assistance for their loved one or friend.

Thank you for leaving such an empathic comment and for all your support. It's greatly appreciated.


LKMore01 profile image

LKMore01 3 years ago

A compassionately written, educational and insightful article, Happyboomernurse. Let this serve as a reminder of a soldiers sacrifice. Not all wounds and scars can be seen by us. It should be shared with any family who may be going through this experience.


Happyboomernurse profile image

Happyboomernurse 3 years ago from South Carolina Author

Hi LKMoreo1,

Your kind and compassionate words are profound and the sentiment behind them are the reason why I shared this hub myself yesterday with my HP followers (something I rarely do).

Also, I updated the hub to include information about the new Legacy Archives Foundation. The Foundation's first book, "Mysterious & Miraculous Book I" was just published and 70% of the earnings from the book will go to K9s for Wounded Warriors Program/Rescue, a worthy cause that has the potential to help veterans suffering from PTSD.

Thanks so much for leaving such an insightful comment. I agree that this information needs to be shared with any family who may be going through this experience.

This time of year when so many families are preparing for a joyful holiday season is particularly hard for those who have lost loved ones due to war wounds whether the wounds were physical or emotional. Anything that we can do to ease the suffering has the potential to save lives.

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