Jan 28, 2007 1:51 pm US/Central–Stewart, Minn. A Minnesota family is speaking out about a side of war that rarely gets mentioned, suicide.
Former U.S. Marine Jonathan Schulze committed suicide last week. A Purple Heart recipient, he became overwhelmed by grief after seeing several of his friends killed in Iraq.
During the seven months Schulze was in Iraq, 35 Marines in his unit died — 17 of them in just two days. Schulze was injured twice and he was awarded two Purple Hearts as a result. But as the months at home wore on, he had more and more trouble coping.
“The hardest thing he had to do over there was loose his buddies,” said Jim Schulze, Jonathan Schulze’s father.
A government report issued in December 2006 said one of every 5,000 military personnel who served in Iraq has committed suicide — an increase of one percent compared to the prior two years.
Yet the same report stated soldiers have better access to behavioral health care — a claim Schulze’s parents clearly dispute.
It is estimated that about 17 percent of military personnel returning from Iraq suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder or severe anxiety and depression. That’s compared to about 6 or 7 percent of the general population.
The father of a six-month old child, Jim and Marianne Schulze remembered their 25-year-old son as a bubbly, fun loving person. But, when he came home from Iraq almost two years ago, his personality had changed.
“What the guys over there were going through were comparable to what the guys who went through Vietnam encountered,” said Jim Schulze, who served two tours of duty in Vietnam.
In a father-son conversation, the younger Schulze confided that he couldn’t understand who so many of his fellow Marines were killed in Iraq, but he somehow was spared.
Schulze’s own personal war raging within him brought him to the Veterans Administration Hospital in St. Cloud, Minn., where he was reportedly told the wait for psychiatric services was shorter than at the VA facility in Minneapolis.
On Jan. 11, Schulze reportedly told a member of the medical staff that his inner torment made him contemplate suicide. However, he was turned away because there was no room at the hospital’s psychiatric unit.
One day later, a counselor told Schulze by phone that his case was 26th on the waiting list at a facility with only 15 beds. The earliest he could be seen at the VA Hospital in Minneapolis was March.
“Jonathan wanted help so bad. At the end of the conversation, Jonathan got off the phone so distressed,” said Marianne Schulze, Jonathan Schulze’s stepmother.
In a statement, a spokeswoman for the Veterans Administration said, “We’d like to express our sincere condolences to the family. Whenever something like this happens it affects all of us at VA.” However, be added that, because of privacy laws, the agency was not free to address specifics of Schulze’s case.
“How the United States government give aid to foreign countries, but yet can’t adequately fund medical and psychological needs of the boys they send off to war,” asked Jim Schulze.
“Your sons and daughters are not gonna be the same,” he said.
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