Recently a rash of suicides and combat stress-related violence has rocked Joint Base Lewis McChord (JBLM). Of the eleven suspicious deaths that have occurred this year, nine have been confirmed suicides and two are still under investigation. 50 suicides have been committed in the past 9 years; and of those, 10% have taken place in the last 90 days.
Moreover, the increasing number of violent incidents involving previously deployed soldiers has reached unacceptable levels. These include the infamous Afghan kill team, allegations that a soldier poured lighter fluid on his spouse then lit her on fire, the waterboarding of a 4 year old child, and the strangling of a JBLM soldier and mother.
Despite the shocking frequency with which violence and suicides have occurred, politicians and military leaders appear content with throwing money at the problem, piling taxpayer dollars into a growing number of ineffective programs, expensive barracks facilities, and even smartphone applications. According to JBLM spokesperson Lt. Col. Dangerfield there are 23 different mental health programs offered at the base—clearly something isn’t working. As the number of suicides rise, as the laundry list of violent incidents connected with previously deployed troops gets longer, the programs at JBLM seem all the more ineffective. What’s clear, is that these programs simply aren’t working; and that something has to change. Coffee Strong, Iraq Veterans Against the War, and local community members are fed up—and we’re doing something about it. We’re not going to wait for politicians and military leaders to act while our brothers and sisters in uniform fall through the cracks. We’re demanding something be done.
Base on the Brink speak-out at Coffee Strong GI coffeehouse by Fort Lewis, calls for a congressional investigation of the PTSD and suicide epidemic in Fort Lewis. They backed Operation Recovery's demand to stop deploying all traumatized soldiers immediately. Jorge Gonzalez, Ashley Joppa-Hagamann, Will Houdeshell, and Andrew Wright shared their heart-felt perspectives. Joseph Carter explained how viewers can get involved.