In 2010, for the second year in a row, more American soldiers killed themselves than died in combat. Military officials knew they had an epidemic on their hands, but they didn't know how to mitigate the hyper-complex problem. It wasn't as easy as saying, "they all have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder," because a significant number of the soldiers who were killing themselves had never even seen combat.
"If you think you know the one thing that causes people to commit suicide, please let us know," Army Vice Chief of Staff General Peter Chiarelli told the Army Times back then, "because we don't know what it is."
Two years later, Chiarelli and his colleagues are still failing to protect their troops from themselves. Thirty-eight Army members killed themselves in July, making that the worst month for soldier suicides the Army has had since it began tracking its suicide rates. In all other branches, the suicide rate for active-duty personnel is up 22 percent from where it was last year. At the rate it's going, experts say it could become such that one troop per day is taking their own life.
On a warm summer afternoon in Champion, [Ohio,] Michael Ecker, a 25-year-old Iraq war veteran, called out to his father from a leafy spot in their backyard. Then, as the two stood just steps apart, Michael saluted, raised a gun to his head and pulled the trigger.