Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Kill yourself in a combat zone and get a letter of condolence from the President!

Office of the Press Secretary

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                                                                            
July 6, 2011

Statement by the President on Change of Condolence Letter Policy

As Commander in Chief, I am deeply grateful for the service of all our men and women in uniform, and grieve for the loss of those who suffer from the wounds of war - seen and unseen.  Since taking office, I’ve been committed to removing the stigma associated with the unseen wounds of war, which is why I’ve worked to expand our mental health budgets, and ensure that all our men and women in uniform receive the care they need.

As a next step and in consultation with the Secretary of Defense and the military chain of command, I have also decided to reverse a long-standing policy of not sending condolence letters to the families of service members who commit suicide while deployed to a combat zone. This decision was made after a difficult and exhaustive review of the former policy, and I did not make it lightly.  This issue is emotional, painful, and complicated, but these Americans served our nation bravely.  They didn’t die because they were weak.  And the fact that they didn’t get the help they needed must change.  Our men and women in uniform have borne the incredible burden of our wars, and we need to do everything in our power to honor their service, and to help them stay strong for themselves, for their families and for our nation. 
In short,  what's going on here is that the President has decided that people who commit suicide in a combat zone should be treated the same as those who've given their lives in combat. 

I think this is a bad idea.  A very bad idea.  And here's why:

1.  Soldiers who die in combat are special.  They are our most honored dead, and their sacrifice is cheapened by this.  Whatever reason someone has for suicide, it is not an honorable death.  It is a conscious choice they make to die instead of dealing with whatever problems they have.  Those killed in combat don't get to make a choice--unless that choice is to sacrifice themselves for others.  Those people are called Heroes.  Suicide is the most selfish act possible, and this action puts those who commit the ultimate selfish act in the same category as those who make the ultimate selfless sacrifice.

2.  The assumption made is that the person committing suicide does so because they are unable to cope with war.  Often, suicides are the result of many other factors.  Things like "Dear John" letters, for instance.  John gets a letter from his wife or girlfriend (or boyfriend) telling them they are now single, and so John decides to "show them" and offs himself.  Is this an act which we should honor and revere?

3. Suicides tend to group.  The more a unit makes of highlighting the loss and grieving for the person who killed themselves, the more likely other suicides--people on the cusp--will follow.  Call it a lemming-herd mentality. "Johnny killed himself, and now everyone misses him, they'll miss me when I am gone, too, and everyone will mourn me. "  By honoring them further, this only feeds to the drive to jump off the cliff into the sea.

4.  He is only doing this for suicides in a combat zone--why not for every suicide?  He mentions PTS, but doesn't the administration realize that PTS symptoms may not manifest for YEARS afterward?  Why honor one suicide but not the other?  

There is no honor in suicide (unless you are a Samurai, committing Seppuku, but there aren't any Samurai left.)  Suicide is very permanent solution to a very temporary problem.  It is the most selfish act, leaving loved ones, comrades, friends and families to wonder why, to wonder how they could have prevented it, to always wonder--and to face the world without their loved one.  

There was, briefly, a time where I wished that I'd died when I was blown up.  My loving wife set me straight on that pretty freaking quick.  I was bound and bandaged, in incredible physical and emotional pain, and barely lucid.  "It isn't about you.  You have children to raise.  You have a family... and your responsibility is to us.  So drop the self-pity routine."  Basically, she illustrated that I needed to "Ranger the F--- UP!" and get over myself.  This came from the woman I love.  And she was absolutely, 100% correct.

I have zero respect for someone who kills themselves.  It takes strength to face your demons--and there is no reason to face them alone.  It takes character to overcome your personal problems--and if not overcome, it takes work to learn to live with them.  

There is no honor, there is no strength, there is no character or dignity in suicide.  There is only failure.  And to recognize failure as a sacrifice dishonors the memory of those who have actually sacrificed.  It disgraces the service of all those who serve.  It is the coward's way out, plain and simple, and those who choose that path should not be honored, for they deserve nothing but scorn.


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