Franklin James Cook

Military, Veteran Stories Focus on Personal Impact of Suicide

In Policy, Prevention on April 5, 2009 at 7:51 pm

At the DOD/VA Suicide Prevention Conference in January, Maj. Gen. Mark Graham, who lost a son to suicide and another to an IED, embraces Christopher Scheuerman, who says his son died of suicide after military supervisors ignored his request for help. (By John Davenport, San Antonio News-Express)

By Franklin Cook, SPNAC Editor

I am a Vietnam-era veteran (U.S. Army field artillery, 1972-1975), my father was a Korea-era veteran (we each remained stateside during the wars that helped shape especially the young adults of our two very different generations), and my grandfather served in France during WWI. I think there is something about being a soldier–even if one never sees combat–that stirs a tribal feeling in a person, and I have always thought of especially young soldiers, in a way, as my brothers and sisters. As I have watched the suicide crisis in the U.S. military unfold during the Iraq War, that feeling of kinship has sometimes touched me deeply.

Perhaps in part because of that feeling, I have posted on SPNAC a good number of items about suicide among the military and veterans. In fact, I believe the concluding paragraph of my most recent posting on the topic, “Culture of Stigma Is a Key Cause of Military, Veteran Suicides,” poses one of the most important–and not satisfactorily answered–questions that needs to be asked about preventing suicide in the military.

Today, I simply want to highlight two recent news reports that do a good job of putting military/veteran suicide in personal terms. I’m not going to quote from the reports or discuss them but simply recommend them to SPNAC readers.

The first, “A General’s Personal Battle,” by reporter Yoshi Dreazen in the Wall Street Journal, tells the story of Gen. Mark Graham and his wife, Carol, who lost their two sons seven months apart, one to suicide and the other to an IED in Iraq. The story artfully interweaves reportage on the facts of the matter with poignant storytelling about a family’s indomitable spirit in the face of tragedy.

The second, “Answering Veterans’ Calls for Help,” by reporter Jon Wilson of KELO TV in Sioux Falls, S.D., uses the story of “Bob,” a Vietnam Veteran who called the VA and got help when he was about to kill himself, as the backdrop for showing how the VA’s response to suicide is being carried out in one city in America. Wilson’s report is a reminder of the power of a well-chosen example when it is shared without frills or sensationalism.

[The abridged URL for this post is .]

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