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Eight months earlier, the Illinois National Guardsman returned from a 12-month tour in Iraq, said his father, Mike Bowman.

“When he came home, he was distant. His anger levels were elevated. Trigger points would set him off,” Mr. Bowman said in an interview. “He had all the classic signs of [post-traumatic stress disorder], and we didn’t know because we didn’t know what we were looking for.”

Facing yet another painful holiday, Mr. Bowman said he can’t help but question whether the Army is doing enough to prevent suicides.

“You can’t really tell what’s going to work because everyone is different,” he said, adding that mandatory training for everyone is key in military culture. “That way no one is singled out.”

It’s important that everyone, including reservists and National Guardsmen, get trained as well, Mr. Bowman said.

Retired Air Force Capt. Ed Colley, whose son, Pfc. Stephen Colley, took his life in 2007, has similar doubts.

While soldiers who are motivated to show good leadership will recognize the value of the suicide prevention program, he said, it is unlikely to impact those who are not good leaders.

“Part of the Army’s suicide problem - I believe - is poor leadership, and my fear is that this training won’t impact that problem,” Capt. Colley said in a separate interview.

He said his son, like many others, had been heavily affected by a recent deployment and a failed marriage.

Maj. Damon Delarosa recalled that after his 2007 deployment to Iraq, 45 of his 250-soldier company got divorces, including him.

“There wasn’t a good mechanism in place to help soldiers. The chaplain was a busy man. It was either that or the combat stress [guy],” he said.

“I wasn’t impressed with what they were able to do. It was mostly medication or taking them out of the mix. There has to be a way to continue to accomplish missions [and get help.]”

Helping others

The 125 soldiers and military family members in this month’s CSF training are learning how to train others. The Army has mandated an online resilience assessment for all soldiers, with incentives to complete the training through promotion points and college credits.

“It’s a long time coming, and it needed to come a lot sooner,” said Sgt. First Class Carlos Santillana, who attended the two-week training in Philadelphia.

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