The military takes enormous precautions to protect the troops. But it hasn't been able to take on the leading cause of their death: suicide.
Any former soldier will tell you that the U.S. Army sometimes goes to rather ridiculous extremes to keep the troops safe. In Kuwait, soldiers are required to wear yellow reflective belts at all times and junior soldiers are not allowed to go anywhere alone. In Iraq, some units require wearing ballistic protective eyewear at all times, even on camp on the way to the latrine. In Germany, the Army forbade soldiers to ride motorcycles because three soldiers died in accidents there. Every Friday, soldiers receive "safety briefs," and on long weekends they must have their personal vehicles checked for safety hazards by their leadership.
But while the Army takes great care not to lose soldiers to injury or accidental death, it has been unable to protect the troops against what is currently the leading cause of their death: suicide. The Army needs to make a cultural change to combat this problem.
This summer, the Army reported that active-duty suicides had reached a record high: 26 in the month of July alone. Last year at exactly the same time, I wrote that July 2011 recorded the most Army-wide suicides ever with 32 (22 of whom were active duty). In June 2010, 31 soldiers committed suicide (21 of them active duty). These numbers are the equivalent of an entire platoon. In most months, more soldiers are lost to suicide than are killed in combat. Additionally, an average of 18 veterans per day commits suicide. That is 540 per month; a battalion of veterans lost to suicide each month.