But my uncle killed himself. And I’ve covered plenty of suicides over the years. And I stood with a friend as he scrubbed the still-wet remnants of his father’s head from the wall above his bed.
I know a little bit about suicide.
And the terrible pain experienced by those who it leaves behind. I love them, I have compassion for them, I pray for them.
And I pray for those who commit suicide, or may one day be tempted to. I think the impulse is greater than any of us dare whisper. I think it bubbles just under the surface, just under control.
I care about those who kill themselves, and about those who mourn loved ones who have killed themselves.
But something needs to be said.
Taking your life is not the same as giving your life for your country.
Though the Obama Administration seems confused on that point. It has recently announced that relatives of members of the Armed Forces who kill themselves overseas will receive the same letter of condolences from the president that is sent to relatives of those who are killed in combat.
Let’s make sure I was clear.
If you die in combat defending America, your family gets a letter of condolences from the president of the United States. Under a new Obama policy, if you kill yourself, your family gets a letter of condolences from the president of the United States.
And that’s not right.
Because the two deaths are not the same.
Yes, the pain of loss is the same. The tears of loved ones are the same.
But the nature of the deaths is not the same.
And treating them like they are does not show “sensitivity” to the families of the suicides, it shows disrespect to the families of the heroes.
In lifting the one, you unavoidably diminish the other. And people who have given a son or daughter, a spouse or parent, ought not to be diminished.
They ought not to have an honor bestowed upon them be debased in the name of political correctness.
The White House has been considering the policy change since the beginning of 2009 – when the new administration came into office. Supporting the idea was a group of 11 senators – 10 Democrats and one Republican – who said that “justice” demanded this honor for the family of GIs who kill themselves.
The assertion is that a suicide overseas is the result of combat stress, and consequently a combat casualty.
That is an assertion that can’t be proven, and it is one that doesn’t stand up to common sense. Sadly, suicide happens at generally predictable percentages, even in combat zones.
Another irony of the new policy is that, if it seeks to honor all who die while in the service, it overlooks those who die on duty or during training exercises outside war zones.
For example, a soldier who dies in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan gets a letter. A soldier who dies in a helicopter crash in Texas doesn’t. A soldier who dies on a parachute jump in Georgia gets nothing from the White House while a soldier who slits his wrists in Kuwait does.
It makes no sense.
Because sense has been sacrificed on the altar of goofyness.
Yes, suicide is horrible. Yes, these grieving families deserve our love and support.
But a letter from the president is a special honor to a family in recognition of a special sacrifice.
Taking your life is not the same as giving your life. And we shouldn't pretend otherwise.
This isn't about disrespecting one group, it's about honoring another.
Those who have earned it.
This isn't kindergarten. Not everybody gets a gold star. Not everyone's actions lead to the same outcome.
We should pray for those who died at their own hand. But we should honor those who died for our country.
These letters are wrong, and they should stop.
Honors should be reserved for those who have earned them.