Pentagon’s Silence to Army General’s Callous Suicide Remarks at Fort Bliss Heard Loudly Throughout the Ranks

A MEMORIAL DAY THOUGHT: Maybe Pittard Really Does Speak For us on Suicides

By Jim Gourley
The Best Defense, May 25, 2012

There is profound irony in the recent unfortunate remarks made by Major General Dana Pittard the week before Memorial Day. After attending the funeral service of a soldier who’d committed suicide, the 1st Armored Division commander issued a post on his official blog describing suicide as “an absolutely selfish act.”

NO APOLOGIES HERE: Major General Dana Pittard issued a ‘retraction’ May 24 to his harsh scolding of suicidal soldiers. Pittard’s damaging and uneducated online rant about the military suicide epidemic may have been simple case of frustration; or it may have confirmed how the leadership within the Defense Department secretly feels about the issue. (DoD)

“I am personally fed up with soldiers who are choosing to take their own lives so that others can clean up their mess.” He wrote. “Be an adult, act like an adult, and deal with your real-life problems like the rest of us.” 

Pittard later retracted his statements with “deepest sincerity and respect,” but he did not explicitly apologize. Just as notable was the absence of any remarks from senior army leadership disavowing that Pittard’s comments in any way represent official army policy or views.

Perhaps it would have mitigated the damage done by the ill-conceived remarks, but the fact that no one said anything — especially so close to a time when we are about to remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in service to their country — may in fact be the bitter medicine we need to take. 

The truth is that Pittard’s comments actually do serve as a representation of the military’s perception and approach to suicide in an indirect yet disturbing way. The remarks themselves were odious, but the loudest statement was the muted response from army leadership.

It is incredible that, after a decade of war in Afghanistan, it was unclear to Pittard that such views are not only unacceptable but wholly incorrect. It is equally shocking that no other senior leader felt compelled to issue an immediate and damning response.

It is not the case that Pittard’s remarks are generally accepted as correct (though more than one senior leader likely agrees with them), but it is painfully evident that senior leaders have not determined what the correct perspective is. They certainly have not articulated it.

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3 Responses

  1. A picture perfect example of what High Level Command TRUELY feel about Soldier Suicide. The General’s statement speaks volumes, as does the Pentagon’s lack of statement. Obviously the years of Data and research from Major Players in the areas of TBI, Neuro-Injury, Neuro-psychiatry, and Psychiatry have no merit. It is not Rocket Science that given the Army’s strategic plan to downsize Personnel numbers, Soldier’s with PTSD and residual effects of TBI will be in the crosshairs for being relieved from the Service. Walking Wounded with no visible injuries will be at highest risk for the drawdown. DVBIC, DOD, and VA research and position papers clearly document that TBI symptoms and residual effects are individual to the injured Soldier. Many symptoms of TBI are also found in PTSD. A TBI diagnosis supports cognitive and even behavioral / psychological deficits—and may be permanently disabling. PTSD is still considered a psychological disorder that can be effectively treated with medication, therapy, a certain amount of time … And being told to “Cowboy Up” doesn’t fly. Soldiers with residual effects of TBI that include memory and cognitive deficits as well as chronic physiological problems like pain, migraine, seizures etc but no physically obvious wounds…. Frequently receive more attention on the PTSD-type symptoms. It’s easy to blow off an injury you can’t see… To being psychological…. And therefore treatable. Back to the “Cowboy Up” mindset.
    I watched my Son struggle when he returned to Ft Bliss after deployment to Iraq. I watched my Daughter-in-law struggle being supportive and advocating for his while stuck in another state.

    • They say:”Leave no Soldier Behind….”; however, they leave them without comprehensive integrative health services when they return home injured and wounded.

      • This is very true. I just had a meeting with my husband’s command at a Marine Corps Warrior Transition Unit. Leadership and advocacy play huge roles in recognition and recovery. However, at this time, that leadership is lacking severely. All of the services are affected by it. Loop holes are created, education is lacking…..but …..most important: care and compassion and empathy aren’t present. These last three are all but non-existent from prior generations. The emphasis is determining malingerers right now. However, if they would have some common sense, they would invest in those who they are already vested in…instead of lumping everything together to dump those who are “dispensible”. Some of these service members are the most elite, most knowledgeable, and most highly trained (which=$$). What ever happened to “doing the right thing”!?

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