Jump In Suicides Spurs Army Stand Down

When Sgt. Larry Flores hung himself last August, his fellow Army recruiters in Texas never saw it coming, CBS News national security correspondent David Martin reports.

"It was a complete shock," said Staff Sgt. Amanda Henderson, who is also an Army recruiter. "I took it very bad.

But that was only the beginning of Amanda Henderson's nightmare. Two weeks later, her husband, Sgt. Patrick Henderson, called her from his cell phone.

"He was just hysterical, crying, screaming and he kept saying he had a shotgun and he can't deal with it anymore. He's done. He's done. He can't deal with it anymore," she said.

She coaxed him home and got the shotgun away from him, but he was still raving.

"He was saying that he sees Iraqi women and that the men will be along soon and we can get them," she said.

Sgts. Anderson and Flores had two things in common. They both had served in combat and were working 70-hour weeks as Army recruiters.

Six weeks after Flores hanged himself, Henderson did the same.

"He had taken the dog chain and strangled himself," Amanda Henderson said.

An investigation blamed the plague of suicides among recruiters on a toxic mix of job stress, poor leadership and personal problems.

But those suicides were only a small part of an Army-wide trend so disturbing that the Army Chief of Staff told President Obama about it the first time he visited the Pentagon.

Last year saw more Army suicides than any year on record. And now it has gotten worse - much worse.

There were 24 Army suicides in the month of January, double last year's rate and more than were killed in combat that month in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

It's so shocking that starting Sunday, the Army is ordering every soldier to stop what she or he is doing and undergo training in suicide prevention.

"There's never been an Army-wide stand down for the entire Army," said Maj. Gen. John Hawkins said. "That's how serious we're taking this."

It will include an interactive video in which a fictional soldier sees his best buddy killed and gets a Dear John e-mail. It addresses one of the Army's biggest problems - the stigma of admitting you can't handle it.

But the Army can't make the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan go away - and nearly 2/3 of soldiers who take their lives are either in the war zones or have been there.

  • David Martin

    David Martin is CBS News' National Security Correspondent.