Maltreated And Hazed, One Soldier Is Driven To Take His Own Life

Maltreated And Hazed, One Soldier Is Driven To Take His Own Life, 7 June 2011, Stars and Stripes

By Megan McCloskey

Spc. Brushaun Anderson is shown in this image from Facebook

Alarmed by rising suicides in their ranks, U.S. Army officials have launched multiple studies and directives to address the problem. But a Stars and Stripes investigation reveals two recent cases in which that high-level concern was thwarted by failures of leadership on the ground — and two more soldier suicides were added to the grim roster.

For Army Spc. Brushaun Anderson, there was no escaping his torment.

The senior noncommissioned officers who ruled his life at a remote patrol base in Iraq ordered him to wear a plastic trash bag because they said he was “dirty.”

They forced him to perform excessive physical exercises in his body armor over and over again.

They made him build a sandbag wall that served no military purpose.

Anderson seemed to take it all in stride. Until New Year’s Day 2010, when the once-eager 20-year-old soldier locked himself inside a portable toilet, picked up his M4 rifle, aimed the barrel at his forehead and pulled the trigger.

Anderson left behind a note lamenting his failures in the military, and some soldiers in his unit immediately said that Anderson had been driven to kill himself by leaders bent on humiliating him.

“No matter what Spc. Anderson did, no matter how big or small the incident was, his punishment was always extremely harsh, [and] a lot of the time demeaning,” one corporal later told Army investigators.

“Spc. Anderson’s punishments were not like anyone else’s in the platoon,” another corporal said. “Spc. Anderson was singled out.”

The U.S. Army is confronting an unprecedented suicide crisis. Since the start of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, more than 1,100 soldiers have taken their own lives, with the numbers escalating each year for the last six years. Last year alone, 301 soldiers committed suicide — a new record.