For the second year in a row, the U.S. military has lost more troops to suicide than it has to combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.
But the suicide rate is a further indication of the stress that military personnel live under after nearly a decade of war.
Figures released by the armed services last week showed an alarming increase in suicides in 2010, but those figures leave out some categories.
Overall, the services reported 434 suicides by personnel on active duty, significantly more than the 381 suicides by active-duty personnel reported in 2009. The 2010 total is below the 462 deaths in combat, excluding accidents and illness. In 2009, active-duty suicides exceeded deaths in battle.
Last week’s figures, though, understate the problem of military suicides because the services do not report the statistics uniformly. Several do so only reluctantly.
jethani concludes his comments with this statement and question: “God help the soldiers. What can the church do to help those returning?”
i would add this question: “do our methods/objectives (hot music; cool media; relevant preaching…and ultimately, huge crowds) speak to this issue? at all?”
at the industrial plant where i serve as a marketplace chaplain, i encountered a young man who served in kosovo in the mid-90’s while he was active duty military. he is now in the reserves, and his unit is being deployed to afghanistan. now, though, he is married and has two little girls. adding to his stress is the fact that he is a non-commissioned officer. he will be charged with sending other young men into harm’s way. needless to say, he is distraught.
i asked if he had a church fellowship with whom he can entrust his wife and daughters while he is away. he does not. his wife’s life revolves around their children. his in-laws live in another state. she is virtually alone, and they are both terrified.
isn’t that what the church is supposed to be about? to walk through life issues with people who are afraid/struggling?
with even the most superficial reading through the book of acts, one must conclude that the contemporary version of church is far off point. no matter how scintillating our one-hour production on sunday morning, if we are not striving to “share everything we have” and if being “one in heart and mind” (acts 4:32) is not central to our mission, then we are not the church jesus had in mind.
in romans 12, paul instructed the church to “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves…Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” if we (the church) would obey these simple directives, then we would be the life-giving organism jesus had in mind. and maybe we could really help hurting people in our community.
even if our meetings are a little lame.