Umatilla County shows that for veterans, a mortal enemy is suicide

From The Oregonian, September 12, 2010

Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Gross was a nearly perfect soldier. Before he went to Iraq in 2004, he sewed a canvas kit for any tools he’d need. He kept a meticulous platoon diary of miles driven, missions completed, weapons destroyed.

Gross was making detailed plans for a second Iraq deployment, including for the care of his children, when he abruptly left work at the Hermiston Armory late the morning of Feb. 25 after a series of phone calls with his wife.

Five hours later, a local worker found him in his locked Volkswagen Jetta just off a busy farm road outside town. Gross was dead with a gun on the seat next to him. A Umatilla County sheriff’s deputy responded to the report of a suicide, investigated and closed the case.

Suicide, once the most private of family matters, is now an issue of troop readiness and force strength. Consider: three Oregon Guard soldiers have died in combat since 2007. Fourteen have died by suicide.

“We are often more dangerous to ourselves than the enemy,” Gen. Peter Chiarelli, Army vice chief of staff, said about suicide nationally in a July report. Last month, a federal task force recommended suicide investigations also needed to focus on the last hours of a soldier’s life.

Read the remainder of this article at The Oregonian.