Suicide Continues Painful Dismantling of a Band of Brothers

One sniper rifle captured in Afghanistan, the Taliban-favorite Lee Enfield model, will no longer kill with bullets. It’s suicide at home after combat — what many in the military refer to as the “8,000-mile sniper shot” — that’s proving far more lethal than any Enfield bullet. For 6,500 suicide victims each year it’s the after effects of their military experiences, mostly in combat, that is every bit good as a sniper’s kill shot from 8,000 miles away. (New York Times)

THE 8,000-MILE SNIPER SHOT: I’ve Lost Friends to Combat, Now I’m Losing Them to Suicide

by Paul Szoldra, Sept. 6, 2012

When you leave the military, your mind is usually filled with a range of emotions. There’s joy over your newfound freedom, sadness at leaving brothers behind, and anxiety over the unknown. In June 2010, when I picked up my discharge papers from the Marine Corps, I lived through it and felt them all.

Now two years later, I am close to graduation from The University of Tampa, run a successful military satire website, and am lucky to continue working with military veterans. It wasn’t an easy road, and many times I felt alone and helpless.

For a heartbreaking and rising number of veterans, those emotions can lead to a devastating end: suicide.

On Aug. 20, 2012, former Marine Lance Cpl. Denver Short joined the list of 6,500 veterans who take their own lives each year after military service. Some call suicide after making it home safely from combat as the “8,000-mile sniper shot.”

Navy Cross recipient and former Corporal Jeremiah Workman, who dealt with his own emotional trauma and thoughts of suicide, refers to it as an enemy making an 8000-mile sniper shot.

That’s what happened with Seth Smith, from Kansas City, Missouri. I first met Seth on a training exercise in Okinawa, Japan with 3rd Marine Division. As one of a small handful of infantry Marines in a unit full of different specialties, it was a lonesome time for me.

After seeing Corporal Smith directing forklifts — with his flak jacket set up much like an infantryman — I approached him.

“Are you a grunt?” I asked.

He responded no, but after further questioning, it turns out that he was attached to my old unit, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines, for a deployment to Iraq in 2009.

Instead of being an electrician like he was trained, he was put into an infantry squad with Lima Company.

He was grunt enough to me. We soon became friends.

About six months after I said goodbye and good luck to 28 year-old Cpl. Seth Smith as I left the Marine Corps, he was honorably discharged and returned home.

The following April, he was dead.

He didn’t give a warning, or leave a note. He was engaged and had a son named Carter.

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