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Father faults Army for son's suicide

Posted January 30, 2009
Updated March 9, 2009

— They're trained to kill terrorists, but more U.S. soldiers are killing themselves than ever before, according to the Army.

A new Army report says the suicide rate among troops is at a 30-year high.

Chris Scheuerman, a retired Special Forces masters sergeant from Sanford, said he believes his son felt alone and had nowhere to go before committing suicide while serving with the Army.

Pfc. Jason Scheuerman died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound on July 30, 2005.

Pfc. Jason Scheuerman died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound on Father blames Army in son's suicide

“My son was sick, and no one helped him,” Chris Scheuerman said.

Jason Scheuerman had nightmares, felt despair and hopelessness, his dad said. He had even put his rifle in his mouth, but according to his grieving father, the people in charge of his son's well being said he was faking it.

Last March, Chris Scheuerman spoke before members of the Armed Services Committee’s Military Personnel Subcommittee.

“Jason desperately needed a second opinion after his encounter with the Army psychologist,” he said. “The Army did offer him that option, but at his own expense. How is a (private first class) in the middle of Iraq supposed to get to a civilian mental health care provider at his own expense? I believe a soldier should be afforded the opportunity to a second opinion via teleconference with a civilian mental health care provider of their own choice.”

Chris Scheuerman noted a “great disparity” of opinions between his son's chaplain and psychologist. The chaplain described him as “clearly troubled,” while the psychologist alleged that the young man “was capable of (faking) mental illness in order to manipulate his command.”

Chris Scheuerman said Army officials told him his son did not leave behind a suicide note.

After struggling to obtain documents related to his son’s death through the Freedom of Information Act, Chris Scheuerman said he discovered that his son did write a suicide note.

Col. Ed Crandell, chief of the Department of Behavioral Health at Womack Army Medical Center, said the military has taken soldier suicides more seriously – at war and at home.

Womack has increased its staff by 40 percent in the last three years to meet the rising demand for care, especially since soldiers are being deployed repeatedly, Crandell said. Commanders also can take away a soldier's weapon and refer him or her for treatment if they suspect anything wrong, even if the soldier doesn't want help, he said.

The military has set up a mental health hotline at 1-866-966-1020 for troops needing help.

Military chaplains play a large role in suicide-prevention training, Crandell said. They work with troops and families to identify and prepare for stresses soldiers face when they go to and come home from war, he said, noting family and friends have to go beyond suggesting mental help to physically take a soldier to the hospital and ensure they seek it.

Experts are putting more emphasis on teaching battle buddies how to police themselves. Mental health experts say even the best treatment won't stop soldiers from taking their own lives, once they set their mind to it.

Last March, Chris Scheuerman suggested that the military set up a hotline for soldiers to call.

“There has to be a safety net,” he said. “How many other Jasons are out there?”

Chris Scheuerman said if military officials had contacted him or his wife, his son would have probably still been alive today.

“We knew Jason was having problems. If they had called us, there would have been a different outcome,” he said.


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  • Axtel Feb 2, 2009

    That could be. I would like to ask him what he is trying to accomplish with this accusation. I hope it is to !ONLY! bring to light what soldiers face today in todays arena of battle, the fact we may need to be more aware of the advers affects of shell shock, battle fatigue, PTSD.... This would be a positive approach to the problem if that is what he is trying to accomplish.

  • woodrowboyd2 Jan 30, 2009


  • discowhale Jan 30, 2009

    ECU Alum 06

    If that's true, your screen name I mean, you're what 26, 28 tops? You talk a good game, but. Put a few more years under your belt, then look back at "what I know for sure", it all gets much clearer with age.

    Your prism of experience is still fairly small. I'm not trying to be offensive, I'm just twice as old as you, and I remember "knowing" stuff at that age.

  • anne53ozzy Jan 30, 2009

    God bless them all...And I would ask, maybe without permission from the parents, to hold back the ones that would want to be the saviors of this country on the front lines, those that would better serve on the home front in other fields that are just as valuable...Let them grow and mature....make them do that if you can until their kind and gentle souls are ready for the horros of war...if they ever are or should be.

  • johnsod27330 Jan 30, 2009

    There is a big difference between having PTSD and being depressed and committing suicide. There are many service members who suffer from PTSD and not committing suicide. Yes this was a tragedy, but there are many Soldiers while deployed who exhibit signs of depression and it is hard as a leader to determine if a service member is suicidal. The mental health doctors who are deployed see many service members for depression, family issues and other stressors and some service members don't get the help they need.

  • kopfjaeger2001 Jan 30, 2009

    To smalldogsrule, no matter if a person serving has been in two years and went thru the revamped and softer basic or those of us who have been in nearly thirty years and went thru a foot to the backside version, PTSD can crack and affect anyone, weak or strong, young or old. No one who is exposed to the rigors of this lifestyle are immune from it.

  • anne53ozzy Jan 30, 2009

    And that is the nature of the "beast", as it is. You cannot focus on a possible breakdown by one in a platoon for fear of losing all or the singling out of one. It is a terrible choice for any officer to determine who is truly at risk at any given moment. I cannot imagine the pressure, nor the means by which they are able to address this.

  • ECU Alumni 06 Jan 30, 2009

    I've seen first hand what ptsd does with someone in the military. It's like a shut your mouth or have it in your records. That's another reason why the military has issues along with it's an ago thing not to show your hurt. The military gives help but they tend to not want to deal with it and then the soldier turns into an alcoholic, distant from others, or is very angry a lot. I can't imagine what these men and women fear in Iraq and I don't blame them at all. War is war. It stinks and ruins relationships and families. Not everyone gets wounded but on the inside the soldier is wounded and they end up wounding loved ones.

  • anne53ozzy Jan 30, 2009

    I don't know what can be done in a "theatre of war" to prevent this sad consequence. I am the daughter of a career Army man and the rigors of service took a toll on him too. Without fostering any blame at all to the parents, and I mean that (my dad went in at a young age in WW II), maybe it is not the job choice for all young people, regardless of their great and admirable motivation. It is "Hell" on earth, I would think, for the young and sensitive who might also feel the urge to serve. I think 18 is too young to make this choice.

  • anneonymousone Jan 30, 2009

    The people who do not understand PTSD, who do not HAVE to understand it, are fortunate indeed.