White House Lifts Ban on Sending Condolences After Military Suicides

Thursday, July 07, 2011

When a soldier dies in a combat zone, the family can expect certain official gestures. Men in uniform will fire a salute. A flag will be folded into a neat triangle. And a letter will arrive, signed by the president, expressing thanks for their loved one's service to the country, and condolences for their loss. That is, unless a soldier died by their own hand.

Since at least the Clinton Administration, an unwritten protocol has deliberately excluded soldiers who committed suicide from receiving condolence letters, a rule that angered many grieving families.

On Wednesday, after almost two years of deliberation on the issue, the White House lifted the ban. Going forward, soldiers who take their own lives while in a combat zone will receive the same recognition as those who died by any other means.

The decision is in part due to the sustained effort of one greiving father. Gregg Keesling's son, Army Specialist Chancellor Keesling, died by suicide in 2009, during his second deployment to Iraq. Keesling speaks with us about the White House's decision to lift the ban.

Comments [1]

Mental health staff member from WA state

When I heard it on the news this morning, I was flabbergasted to realize there was something in place that has precluded survivors of a service person who died by suicide-in-combat from receiving condolences. Talk about vilifying the victim! Your son would be very proud of you, Mr. Keesling. Belated condolences to you and all those who knew and loved your son.

Jul. 07 2011 09:09 PM

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