The acting director of the Army National Guard told attendees at a family volunteer workshop: "I’m afraid to open" the Blackberry messages he receives concerning suicides.
Maj. Gen. Raymond Carpenter, a veteran of the Vietnam War, said, "We have to figure it out. We, as a group, have to reach out to that soldier [and let him or her] know that there are a lot of alternatives out there."
Speaking in New Orleans Aug. 2, Carpenter said the 62 suicides in the Army National Guard so far this year most often have been committed by men, usually in their first term, have never been deployed and often lost their job or had a broken relationship. "Their coping skills are not as strong as my generation, your generation."
He added it was important to find out "what’s going on in their life" to help them through difficult times. "We need to include our families as we address suicide," Maj. Gen. Gregory Wayt, Ohio adjutant general, said.
The Army National Guard reported 59 suicides the year before.
Maj. Gen. Michael Sumrall, acting director of the Joint Staff at the National Guard Bureau, recalled one of the most difficult days of his career when he had to explain to a young mother that her child would not receive any military death benefits even though the child’s father had been killed in action.
"The soldier failed to tell us he had a child," so the child’s name never appeared on any documents as a beneficiary or heir. He added, "The lesson I took away from that is [soldiers] really need to stop and think what if it is a one-way trip. … Think about the people you care about" because "that’s more important than getting to the next station."
Lt. Gen. Harry Wyatt, director of the Air National Guard, said soldiers and airmen never should look at another deployment as routine because there is an impact on the families, especially children.
"Our children are at different ages as we go through these deployments" and their feeling and reactions differ as they grow older, Wayt said.