Friday’s DoD Casualty report of Operation Enduring Freedom would indicate that there were no deaths of American soldiers in Afghanistan this week. There has been a readjustment from last week’s report reducing the number of KIAs by 3 and moving them into the non-hostile category. There were however 12 soldiers wounded in action.
During the past few weeks, especially since the beginning of 2012 the casualty figures have been lower than they have been during 2011. What is not shown in the casualty figures is the high toll of mental illness that veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq are dealing with. There have been numerous suicides and often loved ones are struggling to get Veterans Affairs to listen to them. There is no higher obligation for a nation but to look after those it has send to war on its behalf. Often those that have retired from the military find themselves unemployed or working in jobs that are well below their paygrade. Frustration takes the better of these soldiers, often resulting in suicide.
This morning the Washington Post carried a story describing the struggle of one such Marine. Maj Hackett, joined the Marines, worked his way through the ranks and was eventually commissioned. He commanded Marines in combat and saw his soldier get blown up by Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs). When he returned he was able to get a job doing menial labor for an oil refinery and this after commanding Marines. Major Hackett was unable to cope with the stress of combat and started drinking, eventually committing suicide. His wife is now in a battle with Veterans Affairs to receive benefits. Despite the intervention of the Marine Corps Commandant, nothing has been accomplished so far. It
is shameful that the wife of a Marine should be involved in such a battle. Where is the decency? Doesn’t society have an obligation to this Marine and his family?
For most of his 26 years in the military, Maj. Jeff Hackett was a standout Marine. Two tours in Iraq destroyed him.
Home from combat, he drank too much, suffered public breakdowns and was hospitalized for panic attacks. In June 2010, he killed himself.
Hackett’s suicide deeply troubled Gen. James Amos, the commandant of the Marine Corps. Hackett had been plucked from the enlisted ranks to lead Marines as an officer. He left behind a widow, four sons and more than $460,000 in debts. To Amos, Hackett was a casualty of war — surely the family deserved some compensation from the federal government.
Amos asked John Dowd, a prominent Washington lawyer who had represented Sen. John McCain, for help. “There is absolutely no doubt that he was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress,” Amos wrote to Dowd. “NONE WHAT SO EVER!”
“We will raise as much hell as we can,” Dowd, a former Marine, wrote back to Amos.
Almost two years later, the high-level intercession by the Marine commandant and the Washington lawyer has produced little from the federal government for Hackett’s widow. The inability of Dowd to wrest any money from the Department of Veterans Affairs shows the limits of what the federal government can do for families of service members who kill themselves as a result of mental trauma caused by war. Washington Post
Below are this week’s updated DoD casualty figures:
Op Enduring Freedom Total Deaths KIA Non Hostile WIA
Afghanistan Only 1776 1478 298 15322
Other Locations 102 12 90
DoD Civ Casualties 3 1 2
Worldwide Total 1881 1491 390 15322
Accumulated 2012 Casualties:
KIA Non Combat Deaths WIA
13 26 165