Nov. 28, 2012
American Legion Calls on DoD to Re-Examine Policies on Suicide Attempts by Troops
INDIANAPOLIS, Nov 28, 2012 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- "Compassion instead of courts" is the approach needed to stem the alarming rate of suicide among U.S. troops, according to the leader of the nation's largest veterans organization.
"If you succeed at committing suicide, you are often treated as a hero by grieving friends and family. But if you fail at suicide, you could be treated to a court-martial. This must change," said American Legion National Commander James E. Koutz, a Vietnam war veteran.
Koutz praised the progress the military has made in recent years to de-stigmatize those who seek treatment for suicidal thoughts but added that the Uniform Code of Military Justice still allows for the prosecution of those who make unsuccessful attempts. "This sends a mixed message," Koutz said. "On the one hand we are grateful for their service. We want to compensate you for your Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or Traumatic Brain Injury. But if you engage in a behavior that is often seen as a symptom of those injuries, we will punish you."
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Top military court grapples with potential criminality of suicide attempts in military
By Edmund DeMarche
Published November 28, 2012
As the military grapples with chronic suicides, officials are trying to strike a balance between helping survivors and punishing them under the longstanding penalties for "self-injury."
The nation’s top military appeals court has been grappling with the law's guidelines given the fact that last year suicides accounted for 20 percent of military deaths.
"If suicide is indeed the worst enemy the Armed Forces has in 2012 — in terms of killing soldiers, sailors, airman and Marines — then why should we criminalize it when a guy fails? Seems to me like you’re trying to fit a square peg in a round hole," Judge Walter T. Cox III said, according to The Army Times.
Cox, along with four other members of the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, listened Tuesday to a case involving Marine Corps Pvt. Lazzaric Caldwell. In 2010, Caldwell used a razor blade to slit his wrists while in Okinawa.
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