The Four Leading Causes of Death for US Military Personnel

The Four Leading Causes of Death for US Military Personnel 

The four highest deaths rates for US military personnel are from combat, by suicide, from traffic accidents in the US, and from military accidents. On any given day, we don't know which action will kill more of our troops. On some days, drinkers, texters, and rushed-for-time-drivers kill more military personnel than does the Taliban. 

The purpose of this short article is to talk about the two types of troop deaths that US citizens can do something about.

First, we can save military lives by changing our driving habits. If we obey traffic lights, drinking and driving laws, and refrain from texting and other cell phone use while driving, fewer Americans, including military personnel, will die each year. Additionally, we need to plan our days so we don’t get behind schedule and try to gain time through the reckless use of our automobiles. Some people think they are clever when they wrestle an extra task or two from a day by speeding and running red lights. Statistically speaking, we can assume that for every 1,000,000 red lights we run, a certain number of motorists, passengers, and pedestrians will die or be permanently disabled from red light collisions. The same assumption can be made for every million miles we drive over the speed limit (with the death rate increasing as the speed increases). This is also true for blood alcohol rates. For every 1,000,000 miles driven .01 over the legal blood alcohol rate, a certain number of people will die. Those fatality rates will increase as blood alcohol content increases.

The second thing that civilians can do to prevent deaths of military personnel is to work together to prevent suicide by combat veterans suffering PTSD. Embedded in my article ‘A Dose of Hope for Overweight People’ is a section that deals with brain chemistry and depression. It may contain information useful for those who work with combat troops suffering for PTSD. Additionally, as families and friends of combat troops, we need to learn to read signs of combat-born depression in the troops we know; to support them, and to help them get help when life stays difficult for too long after leaving battle.

Here is a link to an article concerning military suicide and the United States Marine Corp’s accomplishment of a suicide-free month for November of 2010. html

There are several websites that list signs of suicide-prone behavior in combat veterans, and actions we should take when we see such behaviors. I don’t want to give you second-hand information on this topic, so please study these suicide prevention websites for yourself and follow their directions. Each of the five branches of the Armed Forces has a website that addresses suicide, as does the Veteran’s Administration.

The most widely advertised military suicide-prevention hotline number is: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

The prerecorded message for 1-800-273-TALK will tell military members, veterans, or those concerned about them, to press the ‘1’ button for help. Let me repeat; you don’t have to be a veteran to call about a veteran who is displaying suicidal-prone behaviors. This phone line is also there to help the helpers!


Decompression Zones

Two items in the news recently prompted me to add this bit to the article; the shooting tragedy in the Schenecker family of Tampa, and the government’s plan to allow homosexuals to openly enlist in the Armed Forces.

Everyone encounters stress in their lives. Decompression zones are places and times where people can lose the pressure for a while and recover a bit. Factory workers go home and decompress from work. Workers of all types take coffee breaks, which is a decompression zone. Many people celebrate some form of Sabbath, which is a decompression zone. Teenagers go to their rooms and lock the door to escape their parents. Parents go out to dinner by themselves to escape their children. Men have their boys’ night out and women have girls’ nights out. Whatever it’s called, whoever does it and however they do it, decompression zones are vital to our emotional well-being.

One purpose of men’s nights out and women’s nights out is the need for a sexual/gender decompression zone. Each sex needs a time and a place where no one present with any sexual motives. This is for true for many reasons. We need a place where:

  • We don’t have to present ourselves to the opposite sex.
  • We don’t have to put up a shield to repel unwanted advances, or deal with lusting gazes.
  • We don’t have to consider our sexual safety.
  • We don’t have to deal with antagonistic sexist conversation.
  • If we are unwillingly solo, we don’t have to be reminded of our loneliness.
  • We can be away from any type of romantic or sexual interplay between others.


Let’s cut to the chase. Our troops are already under a heavy emotional load in combat zones. They have to do their job in a place where friends and enemies look alike and talk alike. The Taliban fighters often grab children to use as human shields when confronted by our troops. Our troops are thousands of literal miles from home. Culturally speaking, they are light years from home.

Our troops need their sexual decompression zones to help them maintain their short term abilities, and their long-term mental health. They need to be able sleep, shower, and relax without the added pressure of an unwanted, unwelcome sexuality in their off-hours areas. To allow homosexuals to enlist in the military would rob our troops of their sexual decompressions zones.

Expecting heterosexual men to toilet, shower or dress in the presence of homosexuals would be like expecting female Olympic athletes to use open-sex locker rooms.

This would mean greater accumulated stress, less competence in the field, and more mental health issues for our troops in the long run. All else being equal, allowing open homosexuals in the military will mean more tactical miscalculations. This will mean unnecessary deaths, both of our troops and of non-combatant civilians. It will likely increase the number of PTSD cases and the number of suicides.

Additionally, I suspect we won’t be able to understand the Julie Schenecker case and jovenicide until we understand her decompression zones, or the lack of them. Every time one person fires a gun at another person, they do so to create or maintain a decompression zone; a place they can be safe. The homeowner who shoots a burglar is fighting to keep a safe place; a decompression zone. One gangster who shoots another gangster over territory is securing a decompression zone. We must recognize that a mother can consider her children to be invaders into her safe place and may act accordingly. There were times that my children, as teenagers, considered themselves prisoners in my home. I in turn, felt like a warden, responsible for keeping them safe and under control against their own wishes. During those rough times, we all longed for their 18th birthdays as a time when we would all get our freedom from each other.  While I never considered violence as an option, I longed for a decompression zone, a safe place where I could escape to, with no confrontation looming on the horizon. We won't understand the Schenecker case until we understand how she calculated to create her decompression zones.

As a postscript, my 'warden' years started when each child was about 14, and lasted until they were each 17.5 years old. They longed for independence at 14, and resented rules (though they were generally compliant). When they each turned 17.5, they each went through a marvelous change. When they turned 17.5, the truth struck them that independence meant rent, utilities, car insurance, and groceries. They then began to appreciate what they had at home. In turn, their attitudes changed dramatically, and we were able to restore some of the closeness lost during the 'terrible teen' years.

I would like to give credit where credit is due. As a 'warden,' I found one marvelous decompression zone in the comic: 'Zits.' One son had a book of 'Zits' comics that I came across and read. It was like a breathe of fresh air. I understood that the pressures and difficult interpersonal relationships between parents and their teens were typical, if not normal. It helped tremendously. Perhaps every parent should be required to read a 'Zits" comic collection before their child is allowed to get their driver's permit.


Eric Rose  2010