|In their own words|
SPC Joseph Chroniger
My good friend Derrick Kirkland was deployed to Iraq and was going through more than just a difficult time. He was found in his room in Iraq with a shotgun in his mouth about to pull the trigger. Derrick was sent home, and attempted suicide on that day as well. Upon reaching Fort Lewis he was hospitalized, and almost immediately cleared for active duty. When he reported to rear detachment he was met with more hatred than malcontent. There where numerous people in the room when he was humiliated and basically beat down emotionally. Not three days later Derrick hung himself in the barracks room that he was given by himself. Let me repeat: my suicidal friend was give a room in the barracks to himself. There are many more instances of what I would call more that misconduct that I have witnessed while in the service of this Battalion, and want to speak out. I demand justice for Kirkland and his family.
SPC Andrew Bussey
There is a serious problem with the US Army medical care system. The problem is not with financial coverage, as most any visit to the doctor is paid for, but with the quality of care and of the many stigmas which are attached to seeking treatment. Physicians prescribe medicines which only mask the symptoms, but if a condition is not immediately life-threatening it goes unaddressed until it worsens. Sadly, when a suicidal soldier's situation "worsens," he is dead; When a soldier with a spinal injury "worsens," he is irrevocably paralyzed. These are the end results when our only goal for wounded soldiers is to get them back to work. I demand justice for Kirkland and all wounded soldiers.
SPC Cary Ellis
Our Chain of Command made fun of Kirkland in front of everyone, saying "he can't take it" and was "a horrible soldier." They never cared or attempted to help, they put him in a room by himself. Regulation states that if a soldier attempts suicide he should have a roommate, but they said it was just him “wanting attention” and “there's nothing wrong.” They wanted to clear him and send him back to duty. I demand justice for Kirkland and accountability for those responsible for his death.
Anonymous Staff Sergeant
I’ve been deployed to Iraq three times, once with Kirkland. Shortly after I came back from my first tour I was diagnosed with PTSD, sleeping disorder and night horrors. All the doctor did was give me three different medications, one for each symptom. After more deployments, all they did was gave me pills of all colors. I demand justice for Kirkland, and I demand that nobody else be put through what we’ve been through.
On Memorial Day, we are asked to remember those who have died in Washington’s wars. Of course, we’re only asked to remember the lives of U.S. troops; the lives of civilians killed in the current wars are supposed to not exist. As veterans, we know the human toll all too well, and cannot forget the more than one million innocent Iraqis, and the tens of thousands of Afghans, including an entire home just obliterated yesterday by NATO that killed ten children--cut from life before it had even begun.
In the United States, there are many families who will be mourning a loved one this Memorial Day: over 6,000 U.S. troops have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan in the past ten years. That number is climbing by the day as casualties hit record numbers in the hopeless Afghanistan war, and troops continue to be killed in the “ended” Iraq war.
But what this government doesn’t want us to remember is the record number of troops who have lost their lives to suicide. They, too, are victims of the U.S. military's wars. Over the past two years, more active-duty troops have killed themselves than have been killed in combat. Outside the military, veterans commit suicide at a rate of 18 per day.
This epidemic is the result of criminally negligent mental health care from the U.S. military and Veterans Affairs—but no matter how much the mental health care system is improved, it doesn’t stop the constant flow of thousands of young people who are sent to be traumatized in the first place in two imperial wars. A recent study found that now 80 percent of soldiers and Marines have witnessed a friend killed or wounded in combat. Morale is down the drain.
Under these conditions, the wave of suicides can only get worse.
Active-duty troops are standing up and fighting back. This Memorial Day, let’s remember those killed by the U.S. government’s actions, and honor those who are memorializing a fellow soldier by speaking out and fighting to punish those responsible for his death.
Sgt. Derrick Kirkland, from 4-9 Infantry at Fort Lewis, Wash., deployed to Iraq twice. He was rated a “low risk” for suicide after three consecutive suicide attempts, was publicly ridiculed for seeking help by his superiors, then placed in a barracks room alone in violation of Army regulations. Days later he killed himself, on March 19, 2010.
Kirkland’s mother, Mary Corkhill, told March Forward!: “the Army has massively failed him … I am very angry at the Army and I feel they killed my son.”
March Forward! members in 4-9 Infantry immediately sprung into action upon his death to expose those responsible. They have been heroically organizing and speaking out. They are still working today to expose Sgt. Kirkland's case and the criminal treatment given to all troops, and to organize against the wars.
Help build the campaign to win justice for Sgt. Kirkland, to hold the government accountable for their mistreatment of traumatised soldiers, and to end the wars!
For more on the Kirkland campaign: