Army Reports Record Number of Suicides

After returning from Iraq in 2006, Staff Sgt. Sarah Campbell Hester was looking forward to enjoying life, newly married to a soldier who had also just returned from war, reports CBS News correspondent Don Teague.

"He was just funny, he was the ultimate prankster, very solid with the unit," Hester said.

But secretly her husband was a man in crisis, unable to readjust to life after war.

"Iraq changed him, he came back kind of an angry man," Hester said.

One month after their wedding, Richard Hester, 34, committed suicide.

"I always sympathized with him, empathized I guess would be the word, and understood and never blamed him," Hester said. "And now I'm just like you left two little girls without a dad, you left me with a mess to deal with why would you do this?"

It's a question the Army is struggling to answer as well.

The Army's suicide rate is now double the national average. There were 162 suicides in Army ranks in 2009 - a record. Fort Hood has had a record 20 confirmed or suspected suicides this year, four in just one week in September.

And while it's clear the stress of nine years of war contributes to the problem, it's not the only cause.

At Fort Hood the majority of the victims had never been in combat, or had served only one tour, and none were connected to the mass shooting of soldiers here one year ago.

While commanders at Fort Hood say there's no single factor contributing to the spike in suicides, they believe there is a solution: better leadership.

Unit leaders are now being trained to better spot the warning signs of suicide, and encourage to soldiers ask for psychological help - not punish them if they do.

"I can work their bodies until they can pass their PT test no problem now they're giving me the tools I need to be able to take care of their mental well being," said Staff Sgt. Clinton Beene, a squad leader.

For Sarah Campbell Hester, help came too late save her husband. But the Army is hoping by bringing the problem to light, other soldiers won't die alone in the dark.
  • Don Teague

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