The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Sean Donahue,

Military Families: Military Suicides Are Casualties of War


Members of Military Families Speak Out are
condemning comments by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs suggesting that the
dramatic increase in the suicide rate among young veterans is not connected to
the war in
Iraq. The suicide rate among male veterans under
the age of 29 is now twice that of the general population.

In an interview aired Monday
November 10th on PBS's NewsHour, Secretary of Veterans Affairs James
Peake said that Veterans' suicides are the result of:

"the same kinds of issues that have to do
with suicide in the general population. It is issues of failed relationships,
senses of hopelessness, transitions in life, that are at the root cause . . .
we're not making a direct correlation with combat."

Specialist Scott Eiswert
committed suicide in May after being told by a friend that his unit of the
Tennessee National Guard would be returning to
Iraq. His widow, Tracy Eiswert, a member of
Military Families Speak Out, expressed outrage at Secretary Peake's

"I am not a statistic. We are a military
family. We are real people with real experiences as a result of my husband's
PTSD and his suicide. He wasn't that way before he went to
Iraq, he came back changed."

After returning from a tour of
duty in Iraq,
Spc. Eiswert had been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder by civilian
doctors, but the Veterans Administration denied that his condition was the
result of his experiences in
Iraq. The Veterans Administration reversed that
ruling in August. Tracy Eiswert

"It took him having to put a gun in his
mouth for the military to admit that the changes in my husband were a result of
the war. If they had admitted that earlier he might still be

Kevin and Joyce Lucey are members
of Military Families Speak Out and the parents of Corporal Jeffrey Lucey, a
Marine Corps Reservist who suffered severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as a
result of his service in
Iraq in
2003. Shortly after being turned away
from a Veterans Administration hospital, Corporal Lucey killed himself on
June 22, 2004. Kevin Lucey said:

"Secretary Peake's words are the kind of
self serving comments that this nation does not need to hear from the Veterans
Administration and its leadership. This is why many regard this VA
administration to be steeped in disgrace and dishonor when it comes to our loved
ones. They feel that they need to explain away, rationalize, justify or minimize
- instead of committing their resources, time and efforts to create the best
healthcare system onGod's earth."

Joyce Lucey also had strong words
for Secretary Peake:

"This is dishonorable, disgraceful and
shameful behavior from someone who is charged with giving the best of care to
our warriors. With this type of message and thinking, Is it any wonder that many
of our troops and veterans don't seek help from those who are so callous and

Joe Hafley, a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War and Military Families
Speak Out who has had to fight to get treatment for his own Post Traumatic
Stress Disorder, agreed. Hafley served in
Iraq with the
U.S. Army Reserves from 2004-2005, and his brother, a Major with the U.S. Army
Reserves is scheduled to deploy to
Iraq early next

When Hafley
returned from
Iraq, the
Veterans Administration diagnosed him with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder,
Social Anxiety Disorder, and severe depression -- but ruled that none of those
conditions were the result of his service in
Iraq. He

"My treatment at
the VA was belittling and frustrating. To have them diagnose me with PTSD and not
attribute it to my service in
Iraq is a slap in the
face. To have them tell me the problems could be the result of failed
relationships rather than the result of
my experiences in combat makes me feel that as a veteran I have no place at the

"The thing that
is most baffling to me is this 800 pound gorilla in the room not being
addressed. Why are we feeling hopeless? Why do we have failed relationships? The
common denominator is we all served in
Iraq. Maybe my
feeling of hopelessness is that I served my country with honor and I am still
trying to figure out for what reason? For what just cause?

Peake, it doesn't matter how many additional mental health workers you hire
if you as the person at the top still feel we are just losers that failed
to adjust or that we entered our military service unfit. No amount of false
support will help us."

Military Families Speak Out (MFSO) is an organization of people opposed to the war in Iraq who have relatives or loved ones who are currently in the military or who have served in the military since the buildup to the Iraq war in the fall of 2002. Formed by two families in November of 2002, we have contacts with military families throughout the United States, and in other countries around the world. Our membership currently includes over 3,400 military families, with new families joining daily.