IT would be so much easier, Maj. Ben Richards says, if he had just lost a leg in Iraq.
Instead, he finds himself losing his mind, or at least a part of it. And if you want to understand how America is failing its soldiers and veterans, honoring them with lip service and ceremonies but breaking faith with them on all that matters most, listen to the story of Major Richards.
For starters, he’s brilliant. (Or at least he was.) He speaks Chinese and taught at West Point, and his medical evaluations suggest that until his recent problems he had an I.Q. of about 148. After he graduated from West Point, in 2000, he received glowing reviews.
“Ben Richards is one of the best military officers I have worked with in 13 years of service,” noted an evaluation, one of many military and medical documents he shared with me.
Yet Richards’s intellect almost exacerbates his suffering, for it better equips him to monitor his mental deterioration — and the failings of the Army that he has revered since he was a young boy.
Military suicides are the starkest gauge of our nation’s failure to care adequately for those who served in uniform. With America’s wars winding down, the United States is now losing more soldiers to suicide than to the enemy. Include veterans, and the tragedy is even more sweeping. For every soldier killed in war this year, about 25 veterans now take their own lives
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