The Cost Of War

The Cost Of War, 11 April 2011, Houston Chronicle

Clay Hunt was “a war hero and giant-hearted humanitarian,” read his obituary, detailing his tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, and his volunteer work in earthquake-stricken Haiti and Chile. As a Marine, “he often wondered why he survived when so many close friends and others paid the ultimate price for our nation’s freedom.”

The sad truth is that he didn’t survive. He returned from those wars with post-traumatic stress disorder and could never shake the survivor’s guilt at his comrades’ deaths. Finally, on March 31 of this year, he committed suicide in his Houston apartment, far from combat zones, but just as surely another battlefield casualty.

As reported by the Chronicle’s Lindsay Wise, Hunt, who had been active in suicide prevention efforts, had a hard time adjusting to civilian life after his discharge in 2009. He dropped out of college, divorced and had suicidal thoughts.

Things were looking up in recent months. He moved back to Houston, found a job and received medication for his depression and PTSD. But that didn’t save him.

Records are kept of suicides within the military: Last year, 468 military suicides were reported. But it’s impossible to say how many commit suicide after they leave the armed forces, since no statistics are kept unless a vet is treated by the Veterans Affairs agency.