Magazine article Editor & Publisher

On Memorial Day: Press Coverage Probes Suicides

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

On Memorial Day: Press Coverage Probes Suicides

Article excerpt

On Memorial Day this year, many press reports focus on the fallout from the current war, not past conflicts, as was long typical. Much in evidence, after years of being virtually ignored, is the frightful surge in suicide among Iraq vets both here and in Iraq.

Many newspapers this weekend ran overall assessments of the problem, published editorials calling for the military and the V.A. to take stronger measures to fight post-traumatic stress disorder, or recalled recent suicides in their circulation area.

One possible suicide just this week involved Chad Oligschlaeger, a Marine who was found at his barracks at Twenty Nine Palms in California. His family said he was on eight medications for PTSD and had been sent back to Iraq for a second tour after asking superiors for help, which he allegedly did not get. One press report quoted a family member who said it was a suicide. Other family members emphasize that the investigation is ongoing and has reached no conclusion.

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram today profiles the family of another suicide victim, this one in Iraq, who shot himself in front of his troops. Chris Vaughan writes: "On July 11, 2007, in a violent Baghdad neighborhood, Master Sgt. Jeffrey R. McKinney killed himself. He put his M-4 rifle to his neck and pulled the trigger.

"There was no Purple Heart, and the Defense Department announced it as a 'non-combat-related incident.' But Jeffrey McKinney, 40, a company first sergeant and a 19-year Army veteran, is no less a casualty of the war in Iraq than the thousands of young men and women who have been killed by sniper fire and roadside bombs.

"Some injuries just can't be seen."

His father tells the reporter: "I don't mind telling you that I personally hold the company commander responsible. This man made a poor decision. We want to call attention to the military's responsibility and to make sure that people are aware of the signs, because Jeff gave a million signs that he needed help."

In an op-ed for the Chicago Tribune today, Michael Bowman writes of the suicide of his son -- who killed himself on Thanksgiving, 2005, in the study of their home, after rerturning from Iraq with depression and PTSD: "His war was over, his demons gone."

McClatchy Newspapers carries a lengthy feature report today on a 2007 vet suicide, written by Halimah Abdullah. …

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