August 1, 2011  

The right course

To President Obama for reversing the long-standing policy of not sending condolence letters to families of troops who commit suicide while deployed to the Iraq or Afghanistan war zones.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta will follow the same policy, so the families of all fallen troops in these combat zones will now receive condolence letters from the commander in chief and the defense secretary.

The move corrects what was a heartless policy that added stigma to the already heavy burden of families coping with the loss of loved ones.

The stresses and unseen wounds on a force that has been at war for 10 years, enduring multiple deployments, are only just beginning to be recognized, understood and addressed. As the president said in his statement explaining his decision, the fact that troops serving in a war zone didn’t get the help they needed to prevent them taking their own life must change. Taking steps to reduce the numbers of suicides is as critical as the training and protection devices used to minimize war’s casualties; it’s all about saving troops’ lives.