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Suicide Among Returning US Soldiers on the Rise

President Bush might make a show of laying wreaths on war memorials and wax eloquent on the services of soldiers in the war on terror. But post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is taking a severe toll on the countrys soldiers. Families of veterans have begun to speak out, complaining that the Pentagon nor Veterans Affairs care one bit.

In the three months after Marine Maj. John Ruocco returned from Iraq feeling numb and depressed, he couldn't sleep. He had lost weight. He had nightmares. He was distracted and withdrawn from his two young sons.

One night, he promised his wife, Kim, that he would get help. The next morning, he was dead. The 40-year-old Cobra helicopter pilot, based at Camp Pendleton, Calif., had hanged himself. There are others.

Pentagon does not seem to care, it is charged. For those reeling under severe psychological pressures, seeking an appointment at the Veteran Affairs department is itself turning out to be an ordeal. For others, the stigma of a mental health disorder keeps them from seeking help.

Army Capt. Michael Pelkey, who suffered from night sweats, anxiety, headaches and exhaustion when he returned, sought help at Fort Sill, Okla. His wife, Stefanie, said the mental health facility there was understaffed and Michael was told he'd have to wait up to two months for an appointment.

He went off-base in Nov. 2004 and a civilian counselor diagnosed him with post-traumatic stress disorder. His wife says it came too late. He shot himself in the living room a week later. Jonathan Schulze of New Prague, Minn., also tried to get help after he came home from Iraq. His parents say he asked to be admitted to a VA hospital but was turned away twice. The VA disputes that. The Marine hanged himself in January at the age of 25.

Paul Rieckhoff, executive director and founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, says that although suicides among troops returning fr
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