Martin C. Evans

Archive for February, 2010|Monthly archive page

With Army Suicides Up In January, Pentagon Promises Laser Focus

In Uncategorized on February 17, 2010 at 3:56 pm

The number of suicides among Army personnel continued its troubling rise in January, despite Pentagon efforts to identify and treat troubled soldiers.

There were 27 potential suicides in the Army’s active duty and reserve components last month, up from 17 in December, according to the Army’s Suicide Prevention Task Force director.

Col. Christopher Philbrick, the task force director, said the Army had boosted its attention on suicide prevention last year. He said the Army will now examine what has worked and fix what has not.

“In the new year, we won’t just maintain our current focus on suicide prevention, we’re going to sharpen that focus,” Philbrick said.

Army leaders are trying to change a military culture that often brands soldiers who seek psychological help as whiners rather than winners.

With the United States headed toward it’s ninth consecutive year of war, its all-volunteer force increasingly serves multiple combat tours, exposing soldiers to high levels of psychological stress. According to a Rand Corporation report, as many as one in five veterans of combat in Iraq or Afghanistan have post traumatic stress disorder.

‘…over the last year, you could describe our Army effort as shining a flood light on the problem of suicide,” Philbrick said. “Now in 2010, we’re going to move from a flood light to a laser light.”

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Unemployment higher among recent vets

In veterans on February 6, 2010 at 12:22 am

Bad news if you joined the military to get job skills: Unemployment has hit recent vets even harder than it has regular civilians, according to the most recent U.S. Labor Department data .

Although the jobless rate for all Americans edged down to 9.7 percent last month, it was at 12.6 percent for vets who have served since 2001.

Ex-Marine Mike Carrol, 29, and his family were homeless for almost a year until the Manhattan resident got help from a non-profit veterans agency. (Photo: NY Daily News)

The higher-than-average jobless rate for recent vets may be a reflection of the difficulty facing younger job seekers in general. The jobless rate for Americans 20-24 is an above-average 15.8 percent.

Still, that may be little consolation to military recruits who were lured by recruiters’ promises of high-paying job skills, but who now stand in line at unemployment offices.

The jobs picture was particularly bad for women who served post-9/11. Their unemployment rate hit 14.2 percent in January, up from 10.9 percent a year earlier. For men, January’s unemployment rate rose from 8.9 percent last year to 12.6 percent now.

Analysts say military service may make it more difficult for veterans to find work once they return to the civilian world.

They say employers may be wary of hiring personnel who may eventually display antisocial behaviors linked to post traumatic stress disorder. Vets may be hurt by spending years away civilian job networking. And soldiers accustomed to military routine have often chafed in workplace environments where civilian employees seem undisciplined and self-absorbed.

Long dead soldier provides his son with mementos

In Uncategorized on February 4, 2010 at 4:03 pm

Its contents had been a mystery to the French farmer who discovered the weathered pouch buried in a field near the German border: Army dog tags, a tiny ring, a St. Christopher pendant, a U.S. Army medallion.

To Robert Foster, a retired Greenport school janitor who lived his whole life in the tiny North Fork village, they were a final connection to the soldier father he never knew.

“It’s great to have something of my father’s,” said Foster, a former waterman who was only 4 when his dad died. “It brings emotions I’ve never had before.”

The items had been secreted in the field in the waning months of World War II by Foster’s father, William, who may have thought he was about to be captured by the Nazis and ditched items that could identify him as an American GI.

William Foster made it home safely, but died soon after, while Robert was still a toddler.

Foster’s wife, Frances, never remarried, and she and Robert spent more than six decades living together with few physical reminders of their soldier loved one. They had no pictures, no Army citations, no medals to remember him by.

That began to change recently, when a farmer working in a field near Metz, France, uncovered the pouch and disgorged its contents.

Sensing their sentimental value, he forwarded them to authorities, who eventually placed them in the hands of the U.S. Embassy in Paris.

U.S. officials noticed that the “dog tags” identified William Foster as a resident of Suffolk County, and contacted the county’s Veterans Services Agency, which began trying to reach members of his family.

William Foster’s widow, Frances, died Dec. 21, hours before Suffolk officials reached her home with word that her husband’s effects had been found.

County Execitive Steve Levy presented Robert Foster with the long-buried mementos during a ceremony honoring Long Island’s military personnel. Newsday carried an account of the discovery and ceremony.

Levy also presented the Suffolk County Medal of Distinguished Military Service to family members of two Suffolk residents who were killed in war last year.

The medals honor Army Sgt. Jonathan Keller, 29, of Wading River, and Army Staff Sgt. Keith Bishop, of Medford. Keller died at a Ft. Bragg, N.C. medical center January 24, 2009 of complications of gunshot wounds suffered the prior April in Afghanistan. Bishop, 28, died in a helicopter crash while on an October 26 mission in Afghanistan.

Robert Foster, a man of few words, said little while receiving his father’s effects. But later, he shared reflections that seemed to come hard to him.

“I don’t have much of my father, don’t know much about my father,” he said, cradling the items in his weathered hands.

“I’m going to bring them home and have them in a good place,” he said. “It’s like he’s come back to me.”