Sunday, March 21, 2010

Medicating the military

Use of psychiatric drugs has spiked; concerns surface about suicide, other dangers

By Andrew Tilghman and Brendan McGarry - Staff writers

Posted : Wednesday Mar 17, 2010 12:18:59 EDT

At least one in six service members is on some form of psychiatric drug.

And many troops are taking more than one kind, mixing several pills in daily “cocktails” — for example, an antidepressant with an antipsychotic to prevent nightmares, plus an anti-epileptic to reduce headaches — despite minimal clinical research testing such combinations.

The drugs come with serious side effects: They can impair motor skills, reduce reaction times and generally make a war fighter less effective. Some double the risk for suicide, prompting doctors — and Congress — to question whether these drugs are connected to the rising rate of military suicides.

Read the rest of the story by clicking here.
--submitted by Lois Vanderbur

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

DOD Releases Annual Sexual Assault Response and Prevention Report

The Department of Defense today released the fiscal 2009 Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military.

In fiscal 2009, a total of 3,230 restricted and unrestricted reports of sexual assault were filed, involving military members as either victims or subjects, which is an 11 percent increase from fiscal 2008. There were 714 restricted reports filed in fiscal 2009. Under the restricted (confidential) reporting option, service members may choose to obtain medical, mental health care and other services without becoming involved in the military criminal justice process. This year, 123 victims converted their reports from restricted to unrestricted, which is included in the overall total of 2,516 unrestricted reports.

"One sexual assault is too many. As such, the best way to combat sexual assault is to prevent it," said Clifford L. Stanley, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness.

To advance the prevention of sexual assault, the department provided its DoD Sexual Assault Prevention Strategy to the senior leaders of each military service and the National Guard Bureau in fiscal 2009. Each military service held leadership summits in fiscal 2009, keynoted by their service secretary, chief of staff and commandant of the Marine Corps, to emphasize the importance of command's role in prevention. The department also deployed a multimedia prevention campaign, "My Strength is for Defending: Preventing Sexual Assault is Part of My Duty," across the military services.

The full report is available at: For service specific information, contact the individual military services at 703-697-2564 for Army, 703-697-5342 for Navy, and 703-695-0640 for Air Force.

Source:  verbatim Department of Defense Announcement

Murder in Baker Company

Please visit the following link for a chance to win a copy of the book "Murder In Baker Company."

Click here.

Forward to your friends as well.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Army Releases February Suicide Data

The Army released suicide data today for the month of February. Among active-duty soldiers, there were 14 potential suicides: one has been confirmed as suicide, and 13 remain under investigation. For January, the Army reported 12 potential suicides among active duty soldiers. Since the release of that report, two have been confirmed as suicides, and ten remain under investigation.

During February, among reserve component soldiers who were not on active duty, there were five potential suicides: all five remain under investigation. For January, among that same group, there were 15 potential suicides. Of those, seven were confirmed as suicides and eight are pending determination of the manner of death.

"In our continuing efforts to sharpen our current focus on suicide prevention, we are conducting a comprehensive review of existing programs Army-wide, related to health promotion, risk reduction and suicide prevention," said Col. Chris Philbrick, director, Army Suicide Prevention Task Force. "We will use the results of this review to increase the effectiveness of our efforts."

"Because suicide affects every member of our Army family and no one is immune to depression, anxiety and stress; we are also expanding our training resources and support programs to address these issues with our Department of the Army civilians and family members," Philbrick said.

The Army's comprehensive list of Suicide Prevention Program information is located at

Army leaders can access current health promotion guidance in newly revised Army Regulation 600-63 (Health Promotion) at: and Army Pamphlet 600-24 (Health Promotion, Risk Reduction and Suicide Prevention) at

Suicide prevention training resources for Army families can be accessed at (requires Army Knowledge Online access to download materials).

Soldiers and families in need of crisis assistance can contact Military OneSource or the Defense Center of Excellence (DCoE) for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury Outreach Center. Trained consultants are available from both organizations 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and 365 days a year.

The Military OneSource toll-free number for those residing in the continental U.S. is 1-800-342-9647; their Web site address is Overseas personnel should refer to the Military OneSource Web site for dialing instructions for their specific location.

The DCoE Outreach Center can be contacted at 1-866-966-1020, via electronic mail at and at

Information about the Army's Comprehensive Soldier Fitness Program is located at

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention:

Suicide Prevention Resource Council:
--verbatim, Department of Defense Announcement

Monday, March 08, 2010

Are Veterans Being Given Deadly Cocktails to Treat PTSD?

A potentially deadly drug manufactured by pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca has been linked to the deaths of soldiers returning from war. Yet the FDA continues to approve it.

March 6, 2010

 Sgt. Eric Layne's death was not pretty.

A few months after starting a drug regimen combining the antidepressant Paxil, the mood stabilizer Klonopin and a controversial anti-psychotic drug manufactured by pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca, Seroquel, the Iraq war veteran was "suffering from incontinence, severe depression [and] continuous headaches," according to his widow, Janette Layne.

Read the rest of this article by clicking here.
Hearing on Exploring the Relationship Between Medication and Veteran Suicide.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Marine's death came at hands of U.S.-paid security forces

By Chuck Goudie
Daily Herald Columnist

Marine Lance Cpl. Joshua Birchfield, 24, left, was killed while on patrol in Afghanistan on Feb. 19. Navy HM3 Christopher "Doc" Marsh, right, said "Josh was truly one of a kind. He was the glue that held his squad together."

No American soldier should die the way Josh Birchfield did.

There was much more to his "supporting combat operations" death than what the military put out.

It was the standard Pentagon release.

A soldier is killed. A clerk types in their name. "____________ died while supporting combat operations."

There is no Pentagon form titled "What Really Happened."

If there was, in the case of the metro Chicago Marine, this is how it would read:

"Lance Cpl. Joshua H. Birchfield, 24, of Westville, Ind., died Feb. 19 after being shot in the head by a doped-up private security contractor hired by the U.S. government. We're sorry we hired the guy, obviously didn't check him out very well and we are devastated that we didn't do a better job protecting our own."

This disturbing information came to me after last week's column, in which I reported how Lance Cpl. Birchfield deserved more attention in dying for his country than Tiger Woods, who at the same hour had commandeered the nation's airwaves to apologize for cheating on his wife.

"Although I respect the fact that you wrote about Josh to let the world know that he died a hero, and he did, your facts are not even close to the truth," wrote one of Lance Cpl. Birchfield's friends and fellow Marines in an e-mail from Afghanistan.

Because the military hadn't yet reported the death, I surmised that Birchfield was in the Marjan province, where Marines had been in regular firefights with the Taliban.

Actually, he was on a routine patrol in the Helmand province.

"He was killed by American Hired Local National Contractors that were high on opium the morning of the 19th."

The author of the e-mail was part of a Marine quick-response team that tried "to bring him back from the fatal gunshot to the head. There has never been a more charismatic and honorable man I have ever met than Joshua Birchfield."

Birchfield was on his first combat tour for the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Twentynine Palms, Calif.

His wake last week in La Porte County, Ind., drew several thousand people. To accommodate the mourners, his funeral on Saturday was held in the high school where he had graduated just few years ago.

But none of them knew the real story of what happened.

He was on a security patrol about a half-mile from a Marine forward operating base. About 7 a.m., as day broke, shots were fired at Birchfield's patrol team, according to members of his unit. The ambush was by U.S.-hired security guards who were supposed to be protecting a highway paving project from Taliban-installed roadside bombs.

"The contractors were able to have such proximity to a U.S. patrol because we pay them to work on our FOB (forward operating base), pave the 515 (highway), and provide security from Taliban IED (roadside bomb) implacers in the area," I was told.

Because the U.S.-backed contractors "are ordinary Afghanis, they are subject to corruption and play both sides of the fence between the U.S. military and the local Taliban," reported one of Birchfield's fellow Marines. "These men are armed to the teeth and supposedly here for our protection."

He said the shooter and six other guards were arrested after the killing and are in the custody of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.

"They are also drug abusers. The shooter was found to have copious amounts of wet opium on him shortly after the shooting ... we found a bag of wet opium in the compound that the contractors were using to get high."

The Pentagon had no comment on the incident on Sunday.

But the Marine said that Josh Birchfield died for two reasons. "A mix of drugs and gray areas of loyalty between U.S. forces and Taliban seems to be the motivation behind the shooting."

Although Birchfield was the first U.S. service member he recalls being killed by a U.S.-paid Afghan guard, "we have been shot at by the contractors on several cases before this incident. We have been told to refrain from returning fire and attempt to identify ourselves as Marines so they stop shooting."

His fellow Marines held a small memorial service for him last Friday in Afghanistan. They huddled around the boots and helmet he once wore. And the gun he never had a chance to fire at an enemy bought and paid for by his own government.

• Chuck Goudie, whose column appears each Monday, is the chief investigative reporter at ABC 7 News in Chicago. The views in this column are his own and not those of WLS-TV. He can be reached by e-mail at and followed at

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Va. War Memorial compromises go to conference committee

Posted to: General Assembly News Virginia

By Bill Sizemore

The Virginian-Pilot

© March 3, 2010


In an eleventh-hour turn of events Wednesday, a Senate committee balked at a plan to create a two-tier system for honoring Virginia's war dead.

Now the emotional issue that has pitted veteran against veteran likely will have to be resolved by a House-Senate conference committee in the waning days of the General Assembly.

As passed by the House, Del. Bill Janis' bill, HB767, would have restricted the names inscribed on the Shrine of Memory at the Virginia War Memorial to veterans killed by enemy action, qualifying them for the Purple Heart medal. All others who die on active duty would be included on a new, separate memorial wall to be built nearby.

Janis' measure had the support of the memorial's board of trustees, of which he is a member, and the American Legion. It was opposed by the Veterans of Foreign Wars, who would like to see more inclusive criteria for the glass-and-marble shrine in Richmond.

The two sides faced off before the Senate General Laws and Technology Committee in a heated debate that left some members of the committee agonizing over having to side with one veterans group over the other.

“I hate having to make this call,” said Sen. Stephen Martin, R-Chesterfield County.

In the end the panel adopted a substitute proposal offered by Sen. John Miller, D-Newport News, widening the criteria for inclusion on the shrine to include all veterans killed or missing in action in a Pentagon-designated combat area under honorable conditions.

“It's a matter of simple fairness,” Miller said.

Sen. Frank Ruff, R-Mecklenburg County, agreed: “I cannot accept the concept of having an A list and a B list.”

Janis, R-Henrico County, argued that Miller's approach still doesn't avoid relegating some of Virginia's dead to secondary status. He argued that the separate memorial would be more inclusive than Miller's proposal because it would pay tribute to anyone who died while on active duty, such as a service member who died of heat stroke during training in the U.S.

What may have tipped the balance on the committee was the determined lobbying of Rick Schumann, a Newport News man whose son, Marine Lance Cpl. Darrell Schumann, was killed in a helicopter crash in the Iraq desert in 2005. Under Janis' bill, he would not qualify for inclusion on the shrine because the helicopter was not brought down by enemy fire.

“All those who make the ultimate sacrifice should be honored,” Schumann told the panel.

Several senators also took note of an analysis by The Virginian-Pilot that found about one in six of the nearly 12,000 names now inscribed on the wall were non-combat-related deaths.

Bill Sizemore, (804) 697-1560 (804) 697-1560,

--submitted by Patti Woodard

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Suicide Rates Reach High Among American Troops and Veterans

From January 2009 until September 2009 the number of U.S. active troop suicides has already met last years total count with 140 confirmed suicide cases reported by the Army’s Vice Chief of Staff General Peter Chiarelli. In addition, 71 U.S. troops not on active duty have committed suicide this year, one-third have committed suicide before leaving to go overseas. This is a twenty-six year record high and according to the U.S. Military it is not the fault of the military or the wars in the Middle East, but due to unbalanced personal relations. Top military officials claim this number is rising not because of multiple relocations and stress of battle but because marital problems, legal problems and financial problems. However, journalist Penny Coleman of Alternet, argues that troops commit suicide because of multiple deployments and the stress of combat. Coleman insists that labeling these deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan as accidental noncombatant deaths covers up the soldiers suicides.

The rise of suicides among veterans has also increased, with 6,256 suicides confirmed in 2005 alone. There are multiple reasons for this, including remembering past wars as the U.S. move through the Middle East, or veterans not being able to get appropriate mental and physical healthcare. It is documented that 25%-50% of troops returning from combat have serious mental illnesses, usually linked with depression.

Suicides have also increased among females in the military, producing questions about female rights and equalities in these wars. From April 2009 to September 2009 there were 99 documented cases of U.S. female troops that were suspected of committing suicide. Forty-one deaths were labeled as “non-combat related” deaths. Multiple cases brought before the U.S. Congress by women have reported rape and sexual harassment from private contractors America has hiring. The cover-up by the U.S. military and these private contractors reveals what may be happening in our Middle East wars to our female troops.

The armed forces today are reporting a suicide rate three times higher than the statistical norm, and are blaming the deaths on individual troops and their “underdeveloped life coping skills.” Troop suicides in Afghanistan or Iraq are often blamed on bad news from marital partner at home and are considered unpreventable because of their rash, unpredictable actions.

Troop suicides may not be caused by personal problems, but rather stem from their occupation in Iraq. The government must take a closer look into the problem before more preventable deaths occur. By looking into any stress caused by both personal problems and occupational hazards, the government would be protecting those who protect our country.

Student Researchers: Claire Apatoff, Erin Kielty, Tom Rich

Faculty Evaluator: Clarissa Peterson, Associate Professor of Political Science, DePauw University

Faculty Instructor: Kevin Howley

Works: (2009) US Army Probes High Suicide Rates Among Troops

Agence France Presse. (2009). As Suicides Spike, US Army Search For Answers.

Coleman, P. (2007). Pentagon Denies Increase in Troops’ Suicides a Result of War.

Wright, A. (2008). U.S. Military Is Keeping Secrets About Female Soldiers’ Suicides.

Coleman, P. (2009). 120 War Vets Commit Suicide Each Week.

--submitted by Patti Woodard