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Military condolence letters policy under review

By Ed O'Keefe

President Obama may soon be able to send condolence letters to the families of service members who have committed suicide -- something prohibited by current military policy.

The president recently ordered a review of that policy, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Wednesday.

"The president believes that the previous policy that didn’t write those letters can and should be reviewed, and that review is ongoing," Gibbs said.

"If the president didn't care, the policy would remain unchanged and unexamined," he added.

Military statistics show that 117 active-duty Army soldiers were reported to have committed suicide this year, with 81 of those cases confirmed. That's up from 103 suicides in 2008. Some families of military suicide victims have asked the White House to change the current policy.

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below

By Ed O'Keefe  | December 10, 2009; 1:24 PM ET
Categories:  Administration, Workplace Issues  
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WOW...I did not know that a policy like that even existed. That is incredibly heartless and cruel, something out of the 18th century when people who committed suicide weren't allowed to be buried in consecrated cemeteries.

This is long overdue--a military-related suicide is a huge tragedy any way you look at it.

Posted by: momo1tx | December 10, 2009 2:00 PM | Report abuse

I want to see him send a condolence card to every 300 million citizens of this country, apoligizing for the death of the US Constitution before bothering to send one for a soldier who decided to be selfish.

Posted by: ProveMeWrong | December 10, 2009 3:25 PM | Report abuse

You are an idiot.

Posted by: pumor | December 10, 2009 4:06 PM | Report abuse


What I want to do is offer you the tools to commit suicide yourself after a comment like that.
Personally, I'd like to see the Post and other news outlets shut down these ridiculous comment boards, which do nothing but serve as a place for people to yell at each other and say things they wouldn't in polite company. There are other places for that. (And yes, I see the irony in posting a suggestion like this... in a comment section)

Posted by: salf | December 10, 2009 4:34 PM | Report abuse

This is a slippery slope which you enter when you begin sending those letters based on the notion that a soldier's suicide was prompted by the stresses of life on the front lines or, less credibly, of military life in general.

The death is still fundamentally unlike the death of a soldier (sailor or marine) who was doing their duty and died due to hostile or friendly fire.

At the absurd bottom of the slope lies the unthinkable notion of condolence letters to families of soldiers who suffered the horrors of combat, came home, and murdered innocent people.

Suicides leave behind the most insufferable grief I've ever witnessed. Those suffering that unutterable grief deserve every ounce of our human compassion - but that does not extend to remaking public policy at their request in an ill-conceived attempt to dull a pain which only grace and time can heal.

Suicide is a form of homicide often primarily intended to provoke intense feelings of guilt from others. It should not be confused with the honorable self sacrifice of combat casualties.

Posted by: douglaslbarber | December 10, 2009 8:20 PM | Report abuse

Pumor: You are correct; ProveMeWrong is an idiot

Posted by: ct2k12830 | December 10, 2009 8:21 PM | Report abuse

Since when does lack of empathy make anyone an idiot?

Suicide is nothing more than selfishness no matter how you look at it....

The only people that dont see it that way is their loved ones and pansies with an overactive emotion chip in their brain.

Heck, have you noticed that some cultures CELEBRATE suicides?

Sorry I dont measure up to your self-deluded view of how everyone in the world should feel about things.

Posted by: ProveMeWrong | December 11, 2009 8:27 AM | Report abuse

As a Viet Nam veteran and someone who spent 31 years in the Army, I am surprised that such a policy exists. While some suicides may be selfish acts, others, such as throwing yourself on a live grenade to save your friends, are lauded as heroism. In either case, the survivors of the deceased have suffered a loss. The letter of condolence is to the survivors to ease their pain. By not sending letters of condolence to survivors of those who commit suicide, those survivors are basically being told that the deceased was not worthy of being mourned and grieved. Let's change the policy quickly.

Posted by: novahorn | December 11, 2009 4:00 PM | Report abuse

If you jumped on a live grenade, it is not selfish suicide you are correct... Because its not suicide at all. Your point is like comparing apples to oranges. You simply cant do it.

IMO dying from a grenade to protect your buddies is like jumping in front of a bullet for them... Enemy Caused Death in a battle zone.

Now if they pulled the pin on their own grenade and jumped on it... then YES it would be suicide... and and selfish act.

Thank you for your service Novahorn. I spent 7 tours overseas as well. 2 in Afghanistan and 5 in Iraq so I too know the costs and values of what is going on over there.

Posted by: ProveMeWrong | December 11, 2009 5:07 PM | Report abuse

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