• Requiem for a Soldier Suicide: Missing Him

    May 27, 2017

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    Posted in: Iraq

    For Memorial Day, here’s an excerpt from my book, We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People. The name of the deceased has been changed and the exact location of the ceremony obscured out of respect.

    Private First Class Brian Edward Hutson, in Iraq, put the barrel of his M-4 rifle into his mouth and blew out the back of his skull. He was college-aged but had not gone and would never go to college. Notice appeared in the newspapers a week after his death, listed as “non-combat-related.”

    I heard about his death at breakfast and walked over to his trailer. I took a quick look inside and saw the fan spray of blood and brain on the wall, already being washed off by the Bangladeshi cleaning crew. The bleach solution they used was smearing more than cleaning, and the Bangladeshis had little stomach to wring out the mop heads all that often. Blood like this smelled coppery. It reminded you that you were not welcome. Even if you’d never smelled pooled blood before, you didn’t have to learn what it was, you already knew something was wrong in this place.

    The death of any soldier reverberated through our Forward Operating Base. This was, after all, a small town, and nobody was left untouched. The comfort of ritual stood in for public expressions of actual feelings, which were best kept private and close. And the ritual prescribed by regulation was that the chapel had rows of chairs set up, much as it would in Hamilton, Ohio, or Marietta, Georgia, for a wedding, only at the front of the room was a wooden box with holes for the U.S. and the unit flag and a slot to stand the deceased’s rifle. The remains of the deceased were likely already on their way home and not with us. The box was made of plywood, stained and varnished like paneling, and reminded everyone of a B+ wood shop project. The dead man’s boots stood on either side of the rifle, with his helmet on top. Before the event started, the hum in the room was about future meetings, upcoming operations, food in the DFAC, the workaday talk of soldiers.

    There was a program, done up on a word processor, with the official Army photo of the deceased, wearing a clean uniform, posed in front of an American flag. You could see a few red zit marks on the side of his face, a chicken pox scar. All these photos showed a vacant stare, same as every high school graduation photo.

    The program was strained. As with every other briefing they gave the officers read words someone else wrote for them to give the impression of authority and familiarity. The dead man’s job had something minor to do with radios and most present didn’t know what to say beyond that. The eulogy thus rang a bit hollow, but you reminded yourself that the words were not necessarily intended for you and that the Colonel may not have been the best man for the job. He was a responsible man, trying hard to do something impossible. He understood why we were all here, and that a task had to be done, and that he need not be Pericles or Lincoln to do a decent job of it.

    The last speaker was by tradition someone acquainted personally with the deceased. In today’s ceremony, things were especially awkward. The dead man had taken his life and had done so after only a few months in the Army and even less time at this base. Nobody really had befriended him, and this being the third suicide at this place made the whole thing especially grim. The ceremony felt rushed, like an over rehearsed school play where the best performance had taken place the night before.

    But sometimes things surprised you, maybe because of low expectations, maybe because every once in awhile somebody stood up and said just what needed to be said. A young Lieutenant rose without notes. “I was his team leader but I never really knew him. Brian was new here. He didn’t have no nickname and he didn’t spend much time with us. He played Xbox a lot. We don’t know why he committed suicide. We miss him anyway because he was one of us. That’s all I have to say.”

    This was how the Army healed itself. It was a simple organization, a vast group of disparate people who came together for their own reasons, lived in austere conditions, and existed to commit violence under bewildering circumstances. Simply, we will miss him anyway because he was one of us. The word that raised the sentence beyond simple declaration was “anyway.” It was important to believe we all meant something to one another because we were part of this. When it rained, we all got wet. We could hate the war, hate the president, hate the Iraqis, but we could not hate one another.

    The ceremony ended with the senior enlisted person calling the roll for the dead man’s unit. Each member answered, “Here, Sergeant Major” after his name. That was until the name called was the dead man’s. “Brian Hutson?” Silence. “Brian E. Hutson?” Silence. “Private First Class Brian Edward Hutson?” Silence. Brian was not there and almost none of us had known him but yes, today, at this place, we all missed him anyway.

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    Copyright © 2017. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

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  • Recent Comments

    • Rich Bauer said...

      1

      Suicide is painless…

      An average of 22 U.S. military veterans die by suicide every day, more than double the civilian rate. Female vets commit suicide six times the average female suicide rate.

      Since 2012, 27,258 of those we honor for their service on this Veterans Day have died by their own hanD.

      05/27/17 3:57 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      2

      According to a September 2016 study by Cato Institute, some 3,024 Americans died from 1975 through 2015 due to foreign-born terrorism. That number includes the 9/11 terrorist attacks (2,983 people) and averages nearly 74 Americans per year.

      05/27/17 4:00 PM | Comment Link

    • chuck said...

      3

      Have a nice day. Once your born, you die. Enjoy…

      05/27/17 5:08 PM | Comment Link

    • traven said...

      4

      Peter. Beautiful and sensitive. How sad.
      And the suicides continue while the sociopathic politicians and military brass continue this violence unfeelingly in wars for war’s sake.

      05/27/17 10:33 PM | Comment Link

    • John Poole said...

      5

      Traven- I assume you have viewed and pondered Kubrick’s PATHS OF GLORY. We don’t have firing squads today to “set an example”. The military musters guys out today so they can kill themselves quickly or slowly back in their hometown.

      05/28/17 9:00 AM | Comment Link

    • Mitch said...

      6

      Well written. Well done.

      We need to end the wars… so the need for these end.

      M

      05/28/17 9:06 AM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      7

      Mitch,

      Wow, and i thought i was out of touch with reality. War IS what defines US; our economy will collapse if peace ever broke out.

      Meanwhile back in the real world, what is our presidense gonna do about THESE clowns who are a real threat to US?

      — about those two men in Portland who died after being stabbed by a white nationalist who was harassing two Muslim women. Their names were Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche and Ricky John Best,” “One was a recent college graduate. The other was an army veteran and father of four. I wish we would hear you say these names, or even just tweet them. They were brave Americans who died at the hands of someone who, when all the facts are collected, we may have every right to call a terrorist.”

      Dear Don, just a word for these terrorists on This Memorial Day, if you please.

      “This story may not neatly fit into a narrative you pushed on the campaign trail and that has followed you into the White House. They were not killed by an undocumented immigrant or a ‘radical Islamic terrorist.’ They were killed in an act of civic love, facing down a man allegedly spewing hate speech.”

      05/28/17 11:27 AM | Comment Link

    • chuck said...

      8

      Remember… today is Decoration Day. Wage Peace…

      05/29/17 8:05 AM | Comment Link

    • Mitch said...

      9

      Have a Happy Memorial Day.

      M

      05/29/17 9:34 AM | Comment Link

    • Mitch said...

      10

      Rich.

      It has reached the point, nationally at least, possibly world wide… Of just plain, not so simple, mental illness.

      M

      05/29/17 9:36 AM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      11

      Mitch,

      There was a crazy theory in the 60s that the Russians were using fluorine in our water supply to drive US crazy. Not so crazy now.

      Candidate X uses her private server to pass and receive classified information to keep US in the dark. Bad.

      Candidate Y uses Hostile Goverment network to pass and receive classified information to keep US in the dark. No problemo.

      Both see the American public as the enemy of state.

      05/29/17 10:49 AM | Comment Link

    • Bruce said...

      12

      ~5K in GWOT combat to ~25,000 in suicides ! PANDEMIC !! And Because, We ARE WRONG (AND ILLEGAL) !!!

      05/29/17 11:00 AM | Comment Link

    • chuck said...

      13

      USA USA USA (Repeat and wave flags) #1 War Criminal Nation. Have a nice day!

      05/29/17 11:18 AM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      14

      Winning the war on the Homefront:

      A mercenary and security firm known as TigerSwan targeted the movement opposed to the Dakota Access Pipeline with military-style counterterrorism measures, collaborating closely with police in at least five states, according to internal documents obtained by The Intercept. The documents provide the first detailed picture of how TigerSwan, which originated as a U.S. military and State Department contractor helping to execute the global war on terror, worked at the behest of its client Energy Transfer Partners, the company building the Dakota Access Pipeline, to respond to the indigenous-led movement that sought to stop the project. – Intercept

      We have met the enemy and it is US.

      05/29/17 11:46 AM | Comment Link

    • chuck said...

      15

      Thanks Obomber and the D’s. The R’s suck also. Peas

      05/29/17 2:13 PM | Comment Link

    • chuck said...

      16

      Listen to Smedley.

      05/29/17 2:32 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      17

      If this dumbass country doesnt change course, we will need a requiem for our national suicide.

      05/29/17 4:58 PM | Comment Link

    • Mitch said...

      18

      Rich.

      I don’t know about the Soviets using that…. But I do know the US has been putting it in the water for years…

      Btw….

      And I know what your going to say…..but…. Putin called it… ” Political Schizophrenia “.

      M

      05/29/17 5:07 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      19

      Let US not forget the people these psychologically wounded people kill besides themselves. DS dirty harry stinking drunk Deedy suffered PTSD from his Benghazi tour of duty and killed a McDonalds customer who was holding a Happy meal. You want fries with that punk? Do ya?

      But the real kicker was the DS Flying Monkeys hosted a Happy Hour fundraiser for drunk Deedy..

      05/29/17 5:20 PM | Comment Link

    • John Poole said...

      20

      Ah, Christoper Deedy- clueless blue light guy who joined DS
      hoping to be the Clint Eastwood for State.

      05/29/17 6:34 PM | Comment Link

    • Mitch said...

      21

      Rich and JP….
      Interesting name to bring up there…… Deedy….. Some friends and I were just discussing that…..

      The end result of the discussion was…. No matter what you feel about that case….there are a few interesting points to be made…

      The first being…. “a fair and speedy trial by your peers”. ….. Come on…. SEVEN YEARS ?!!!!!!!!!

      The second…… “Double Jeopardy”…. The act of being tried twice …or more…. For the same crime….

      And third… Comes from an interesting little document… Called the ‘ Constitution of the United States “… Amendment 5…. “The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides: [N]or shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb. … ”

      Last I heard… Only California was trying to succeed…. Was not aware Hawaii had already left…. And taken all the spam with them….

      M

      05/29/17 11:36 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      22

      1. Dirty Harry Deedy is gonna be working for the victim’s famly the rest of his life when the civil suit for wrongful death is over.

      2. Dirty Harry Deedy was drunk when he fired his weapon three times in a crowded restaurant. The moron could have killed three people in his drunken state.

      3. Dirty Harry Deedy was trained in martial arts to disable an unarmed man. If the moron wasnt drunk, he could have subdued the drunk customer.

      4. Dirty Harry Deedy is a reminder that DS agents are not well trained and should not be trusted with a loaded weapon when they are loaded.

      05/30/17 8:25 AM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      23

      Soldiers committing career suicide:

      Three married U.S. Marine officers have found themselves under investigation for a night in February that went off the rails in Bogotá, involving allegations they went drinking with some local women, were slipped illicit drugs, robbed of U.S. property and landed in a local hospital emergency room.

      The men may have fallen prey to what is known as “burundanga poisoning,” according to a report on the investigation conducted by the Marine Corps Forces, South, a Southern Command subsidiary, and obtained by the Miami Herald.

      The report recommended that Marine Col. Roger T. McDuffie, a Harrier pilot who serves as the chief of operations at the unit known as MARFORSOUTH; Maj. Andrew L. Mueller, described as a theater security cooperation planner; and Maj. Mauricio Saenz, exercise planner, face “appropriate administrative or judicial proceedings.”

      Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/article152948834.html#storylink=cpy

      05/30/17 9:34 AM | Comment Link

    • Mitch said...

      24

      Rich.

      Deedy…… Let me try to put it a different way for you….

      This massive psychosis that has swept the United States … The complete inability of people to accept that Hillary lost… And the demands for Trump to “Un-Win ” the election….
      Very similar to the Deedy case…..

      As in…..

      How many times do you want to set aside laws of a nation to meet the approvals of a single group????

      The laws of this nation…any nation…. Were and are set in place to Serve the population… All of it.

      They are only tool the people of a nation have to have any semblance of equality….

      Once upon a time…. It actually worked that way…. And someday….it will again….

      M

      05/30/17 7:45 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      25

      Mitch,

      the common thread connectng Hillarious, demented Don and drunk Deedy is unbridled stupidity.

      05/30/17 11:03 PM | Comment Link

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