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February 04, 2013

Death of Famed SEAL Sniper Highlights Military’s Mental Health Crisis

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Fmr. Navy SEAL Chris Kyle

Former Navy SEAL sniper and author Chris Kyle has been shot and killed. Kyle was the deadliest sniper in U.S military history with 160 confirmed kills and 255 claimed kills serving four tours in Iraq. He died at the hands of an Iraq War veteran suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder whom he was counseling.

From his perch in hide-outs above battle-scarred Iraq, Chris Kyle earned a reputation as one of America’s deadliest military snipers. The Pentagon said his skills with a rifle so terrorized Iraqi insurgents during his four tours of duty that they nicknamed him the “Devil of Ramadi” and put a bounty on his head.

The insurgents never collected, and he returned home to become a best-selling author and a mentor to other veterans, sometimes taking them shooting at a gun range near his Texas home as a kind of therapy to salve battlefield scars, friends said. One such veteran was Eddie Ray Routh, a 25-year-old Marine who had served tours in Iraq and Haiti.

But on Saturday, far from a war zone, Mr. Routh turned on Mr. Kyle, 38, and a second man, Chad Littlefield, 35, shortly after they arrived at an exclusive shooting range near Glen Rose, Tex., about 50 miles southwest of Fort Worth, law enforcement authorities said Sunday. The officials said that for reasons that were still unclear, Mr. Routh shot and killed both men with a semiautomatic handgun before fleeing in a pickup truck belonging to Mr. Kyle.

While Kyle’s death may be grabbing headlines today it is just the latest tragedy in the US military’s ongoing mental health crisis. A decade of war has taken a staggering toll as a new study reveals 22 military veterans commit suicide every day.

The results of a new study indicate that suicide rates among veterans in the United States are increasing.

An estimated 22 military veterans take their lives every day in America, according to the study helmed by Robert Bossarte, an epidemiologist and researcher who works with the Department of Veterans Affairs…the Washington Post is reporting that the rate of veteran suicides discovered by Bossarte is approximately 20 percent higher than 2007 figures offered by the VA.

While some of this problem could be attributed to failures in the veterans healthcare system, the larger issue is clear. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have more casualties than those listed from the battles and the long term consequences of war will remain.

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