Camp Pendleton Working to Combat Suicides
Former Marine Corps infantry commander who sought help calls radio show to say little has changed
KPBS Midday Edition
Sept. 13, 2011
BLOGBACK: During a live call-in radio program on San Diego’s KPBS, host Maureen Cavanaugh interviewed a Marine Corps official about prevention programs and efforts by commanders to respond to the record number of military suicides.
Cavanaugh’s guest was Kim DiSarro. DiSarro was employed by the Marine Corps as a civilian prevention and education specialist at Camp Pendleton, the military base in San Diego County home to about 40, 000 Marines and sailors.
The ladies took several calls. One was from a Vietnam veteran named Edward who wanted to make the point that he thought suicides among Vietnam veterans had been exaggerated in the media.
The next caller was Janice. She said her husband was military commander. She called to praise her husband for helping a suicidal subordinate get assistance.
Jim was next up. He said troops don’t have enough time to decompress between leaving an active combat zone and arriving back home.
Then came Cameron’s call.
Cameron said he had served as an infantry officer and had three tours in Iraq and one in East Africa. He then explained that he had been a commander and also a patient within the military medical system.
Here is a transcript of how the conversation unfolded:
CAVANAUGH: Gotcha. I want to tell you, Cameron is on the line from San Diego. Welcome to the show.
CAMERON: Hi. How are you doing?
CAVANAUGH: Just fine.
CAMERON: I was a Marine Corps officer for almost 12 years. I served in the infantry; I did a tour in the horn of Africa, and three tours in Iraq. Then I asked for help, and spent 18 months in the Navy medical system. So I’ve been a commander of Marines, and I’ve also been a patient in the medical system. And I can tell you, a lot of things they say are happening are not actually happening.
CAVANAUGH: How so?
CAMERON: Well, for example, a lot of the things are kept to commanders’ discretion. And I have seen commanders, I have heard commanders say out of their own mouths, and this is before I actually asked for help; these are my peers; say things such as PTSD is BS. It doesn’t exist. There is nothing that has happened in Iraq or Afghanistan that warrants it. I have heard them say things like there is no such thing as alcoholism. Which is the second and third order effect of PTSD. They say that people drink because they want to drink. And the only administrative mechanisms that are in place in order to deal with Marines that start having these symptoms of PTSD are administrative and punitive.
CAVANAUGH: And what years are you talking about here that you heard officials, Marine officers say that?
CAMERON: 2009. And 2010.
CAVANAUGH: Okay. Now, Kim have things changed?
CAMERON: No, I haven’t seen a change at all.
CAVANAUGH: I want Kim DiSarro, from Camp Pendleton, I’d also like her to weigh in on this. Cameron, thank you very much for the call. Thank you for your story. You heard the story, Kim, what’s your response?
DISARRO: My first thing I would say, I’m so is sorry that that was his story. I wish it had been different. But I can only say that it’s a work in progress. It’s a big business. It’s a large group of people that we’re trying to change attitudes and change how things work. And it’s not going to happen over night. But I am hopeful that the little baby steps that we’re taking and some of the big programs that they’re supporting and rallying around folks, that it’s a work in progress. And my hope is that the story that that gentleman just told, nobody else has to tell. And I know that’s in a perfect world, but I’m casual optimistic that we’re moving at least in the right direction.
Listen to the whole program:
Filed under: Resources Tagged: | Afghanistan, California, Camp Pendleton, Combat, Deployment, Infantry, Iraq, KPBS, Marine Corps, Military, PTSD, San Diego, Stress, Suicide, Suicide prevention, Veterans, War