Best Defense

An interesting proposal to reduce suicide among people leaving the military

A lot of suicides occur when the new vet is transitioning from military to civilian life, writes Marine Sgt. James Galloway.

A Soldier assigned to 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, conducts a helocast insertion into the Pacific Ocean near Marine Corps Training Area Bellows, Hawaii, on May 16, 2017. A UH-1Y “Super Huey” helicopter assigned to the Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 367 provided aerial support for the Soldiers. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Armando R. Limon, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division)
A Soldier assigned to 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, conducts a helocast insertion into the Pacific Ocean near Marine Corps Training Area Bellows, Hawaii, on May 16, 2017. A UH-1Y “Super Huey” helicopter assigned to the Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 367 provided aerial support for the Soldiers. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Armando R. Limon, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division)

A lot of suicides occur when the new vet is transitioning from military to civilian life, writes Marine Sgt. James Galloway. He notes that his own time just after being in the Marines was “the most difficult year of my life,” with a heavy sense of “loneliness, isolation, and … constant failures.”

So, he proposes in the July issue of the Marine Corps Gazette, why not change the way we structure that transition?

He calls for the creation of a Selected Marine Corps Reserve unit in the new vet’s home state, with a mandatory 12-month obligation for first-term personnel, “because they are the ones who statistically fit the leading age group of veteran suicides. Additionally, they are the ones who most are ill-equipped to transition.”

The new units would provide them with a network of other Marines going through the same experience, give them a sense of belonging, and put solutions to their problems in front of them. These units could perform some of the specialized Reserve functions, such as funeral details and community relations work, he says.

Photo credit: U.S. Department of Defense 

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com.

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