Fort Hood (Texas): At 3:30 a.m. on a Saturday in August, Specialist Armando G. Aguilar Jr. found himself at the end of his short life. He was standing, drunk and weepy, in the parking lot of a Valero station outside Waco, Tex. He had jumped out of his moving pickup. There was a police officer talking to him in frantic tones. Specialist Aguilar held a pistol pointed at his head.
This moment had been a long time coming, his family said. He had twice tried to commit suicide with pills since returning from a tough tour in Iraq a year earlier, where his job was to drive an armored vehicle to search for bombs.
Army doctors had put him on medications for depression, insomnia, nightmares and panic attacks. Specialist Aguilar was seeing an Army therapist every week. But he had been getting worse in the days before his death, his parents said, seeing shadowy figures that were not there, hallucinating that he heard loud noises outside his trailer home.
“He wanted help — he was out there asking for help,” said his father, Armando Aguilar Sr. “He just snapped. He couldn’t control what he was doing no more.”
Specialist Aguilar was one of 20 soldiers connected to Fort Hood who are believed to have committed suicide this year. The Army has confirmed 14 of those, and is completing the official investigations of six other soldiers who appear to have taken their own lives — four of them in one week in September. The deaths have made this the worst year at the sprawling fort since the military began keeping track in 2003.
The spate of suicides in Texas reflects a chilling reality: nearly 20 months after the Army began strengthening its suicide prevention program and working to remove the stigma attached to seeking psychological counseling, the suicide rate among active service members remains high and shows little sign of improvement. Through August, at least 125 active members of the Army had ended their own lives, exceeding the morbid pace of last year, when there were a record 162 suicides. Continue reading