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Find Ilona blogging at Magyar Etimológia and Etymartist.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Monday's Vet Art Project Showcase an Overarching Success

Monday evening, Lisa Rosenthal and her Vet Art Project troops put on quite a show for us all at the Chicago Cultural Center. The performance and artwork showcase was the product of an inspired collaboration between area veterans and artists.

The performances (~20 separate mini plays, poetry recitals, musical compositions, readings, performance art/dance skits, and so much more) and art were moving, riveting, resounding, stirring, saddening, maddening, enveloping, uplifting, jarring caustic and crass, beautiful, bold and brash.

It was an honor to be there to witness, to listen, to consider, to shoulder and to do my part as a civilian to absorb some of the emotion of the shared stories of our nation's veterans.

A few of the evening's photos below the fold.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Rising Tide: 2008 OEF/OIF Army, Marine Suicides 28% of Overall KIA Casualties; Jan '09 Army Suicides May Surpass Month's KIA Count

See Afghanistan, Iraq Veteran Army Suicide Rate Continues to Climb; PTSD Timeline Update for updated OEF/OIF veteran suicide data -- Ilona Meagher, 11/4/09

The continued rise of OEF/OIF veteran suicides reported by the military over the past weeks isn't very surprising news for longtime followers of this issue; but, it's no less alarming.

First, let's take a glance backward.

In December 2007, prepping for my testimony before Congress, I tallied up all of the available officially-reported DoD/VA suicide figures and felt what I'd found was significant: If we added these reported OEF/OIF veteran suicides to the running Afghanistan and Iraq KIA count, the total casualties at the time would have been at least 10 percent higher.

In September 2008, I did another count of the official OEF/OIF suicide data (full breakdown and lots of other related stats collected there) reported by the DoD and VA. During this layman's research, I found that the suicide portion of the overall KIA count had increased to nearly 15 percent.

Over the past few weeks, we have learned that 1) both the Army and Marines have seen increases in their 2008 active-duty suicides -- even in the face of aggressive campaigns to reduce their incidence -- the Army's rate higher than at any other point in the 30 years that they have been tracking such figures; and 2) that, judging by January's reported record-shattering month of Army suicides -- where more active-duty soldiers killed themselves than were killed-in-action fighting the enemy on Afghan and Iraqi combat fields -- 2009 is trending ominously.

Last week, preparing for an interview by (the audio has not been posted as of yet, but I would highly recommend your checking out their work in the meantime), I added up the just-released figures:

128 - confirmed 2008 active-duty Army suicides
15 - suspected 2008 active-duty Army suicides
41 - confirmed 2008 active-duty Marine suicides
184 active-duty 2008 Army/Marine suicides

Per, 2008's total OEF/OIF KIA count was 469.

Doing the math quickly: 184 of 469 -- or 28 percent -- of our OEF/OIF veteran casualties seem to be as a result of suicide: an astonishing jump. And it's important to note: This figure only reflects the active-duty element in the Army and Marines.

This number does not include Air Force or Navy suicides, nor veterans separated from service but not yet in the VA system, nor any suicides of veterans in the VA system.

So, the reality is much more dire than what the numbers being bandied about in the news today reflect, unfortunately.

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