By Robert David Jaffee
“The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive the Veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation.” That quote from George Washington concludes a new study by the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) on the links between suicide and service in the U.S. Armed Forces.
There is no question that veterans are treated better now than they were following the Vietnam War, but the CNAS study reveals that veterans and service members are committing suicide at alarming numbers — one every 36 hours for service members, one every 80 minutes for veterans.
The study provides many recommendations, among them the need to maintain unit cohesion for 90 days following a return from deployment, a policy that has been used by the Marines for some time but not by the Army. This is a critical policy recommendation because it is precisely during times of non-deployment, when soldiers are living on a base away from combat, or are seeking a job in civilian life, that they are most at risk of suicide.