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National Guard sees rise in suicides at the border

As 2021 comes to a close, leaders of the Texas National Guard are finding themselves in a...
As 2021 comes to a close, leaders of the Texas National Guard are finding themselves in a troubling spot at the border as four service members have died by suspected suicide. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Mark Otte)(Sgt. Mark Otte | Texas Military Department)
Published: Dec. 30, 2021 at 8:41 PM CST
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KILLEEN, Texas (KWTX) - As 2021 comes to a close, leaders of the Texas National Guard are finding themselves in a troubling spot at the border as four service members have died by suspected suicide.

For many of the soldiers stationed at the border for Operation Lone Star, they received notice of their deployment less than two weeks from their start date and some experts claim that this could be a tipping point for emotional distress.

Army Veteran and Social Worker Jeffrey Yarvis says while it’s rare, suicides prior or at the beginning of deployments happen across all branches, but the recent deaths are concerning.

“This is not a topic to be shied away from,” he said.

“As a former commander, this would be at the top of my list. After 34 years in the military, the biggest reasons are relationship issues and financial issues which are followed by additional stressors.”

Those stressors are certainly real. Reports have surfaced from some soldiers claiming a lack of purpose for their mission, poor living conditions, and a lack of motivation due to a massive cut in tuition assistance pay. Whatever the reason, Yaris adds that these issues should be brought up with the chain of command.

“It’s really critical that leaders down to the squad leaders level know their soldiers well and are constantly checking in with them,” he said.

“Even if they seem alright, they should be asked about how they are today.”

While these claims and the deaths are still under active investigations, Yarvis adds there are resources available to help those at a breaking point. Whether it be through counseling, chaplain, family members or soldiers reaching out, Yarvis believes they can save lives.

“When they’re not worried about tomorrow, that’s when it’s very concerning and more dangerous,” he said.

“I can’t stress enough how we need to normalize discussions around this behavior, but not condone the behavior itself.

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