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.”
“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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Filed under: Resources Tagged: | Afghanistan, Army, Dana Pittard, Fort Bliss, Iraq, Memorial Day, Mental Health, Military Family, Military Suicide, Overdose, PTSD, Stigma, Stress, Suicide prevention, Veterans, Veterans Affairs, War