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January 23, 2006

Returned Iraq Vet Commits Suicide

And so it begins – the impact on our soldiers of what they have seen and done in their tours in Iraq.  Concern for the soldiers who actually had to be over there was always one of the many reasons that so many of us were so against our preemptive attack on Iraq.  Why would we want another generation of young men and women to have to deal with what the returning Vietnam veterans had to deal with?

There is so much that was wrong with our attack on Iraq and the way this Administration has handled the occupation and attempted re-building of Iraq.  A price tag of $1-2 trillion.  Looting of irreplaceable antiquities following the war.  The essential abandonment of Afghanistan, which is now slipping back into chaos.  And don’t get me started on the impact on women and children in both countries.

But at the moment, this is what brings tears to my eyes:

It is with great sadness that IVAW announces the death of one of our own. Specialist Doug Barber, a member of IVAW, recently took his own life after returning from Iraq. A main contributor to his death was the PTSD he dealt with; the same PTSD that originated from the time Doug spent in the war in Iraq. Another contributing factor was the failure of the VA to provide adequate mental care services to heal the wounds of war.

Via the Huffington Post, we learn that an organization called The Iraq Veterans Against War has a couple of articles up about Doug Barber and his death.  Here is something they have from Doug himself, who was writing about his experiences in Iraq as a soldier and back home in Alabama trying to get assistance for his mental anguish before he killed himself:

All is not okay or right for those of us who return home alive and supposedly well. What looks like normalcy and readjustment is only an illusion to be revealed by time and torment. Some soldiers come home missing limbs and other parts of their bodies. Still others will live with permanent scars from horrific events that no one other than those who served will ever understand.

From Jay Shaft, editor of Coalition for Free Thought in Media, we hear that:

Doug may have taken his own life, but the blame should rest squarely on the shoulders of the VA. They stonewalled his claim and prevented him from getting treatment at every step of the way. He struggled for two years to get any type counseling for his problems.
Last year he turned himself in for emergency crisis treatment through the VA. Their response was to give him a counseling appointment every three months and give him medication without any real supervision or follow-up.

Because they did not immediately respond to Doug’s cry for help, his condition was allowed to grow into an insurmountable problem. If they had given him access to therapy and full PTSD counseling and support I doubt his life would have come to this unnecessary end. It was a complete failure on the part of the VA that led to this senseless death of a man who put his life on the line for his country.

Doug had done a lengthy interview with Doug Basham entitled “Iraq took away our innocence” about his experiences in Iraq as a soldier and at home, trying to get help for the mental symptoms which showed up first in Iraq and then back home.  It is available here.

Stan Goff, also of Iraq Veterans Against the War, tells us about Doug's last day:

On January 16th, after having talked quite normally on the phone with at least two other people that same day, Douglas Barber, a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) living in Lee County, Alabama, changed the answer-message on his telephone. "If you're looking for Doug," it said in his Alabama drawl, "I'm checking out of this world. I'll see you on the other side." He then called the police, collected his shotgun, and went out onto his porch to meet them.

From the sketchy reports we have now, it seems the police wouldn't oblige him with a "suicide by cop" and tried to talk him down. When it became apparent he wasn't able to commit cop-suicide, 27-year-old Douglas Barber did an about-face, rotated the shotgun and killed himself.

Goff tells us about Barber’s two year fight with the Veterans Administration to get proper treatment.  He had finally won the right to be seen by doctors but apparently it was too late.  Goff then also talks about how it is that young men like Doug find themselves in the military in the first place.

They went, as they have always done, to places like Lee County, Alabama, where simple people have formed powerful affective attachments to the myth of our national moral superiority. When that world view, that architecture of meaning, collapses in the face of realities like convoy Russian roulette, and women holding babies up to prevent being shot, and daily stories of slaughter by the people one sleeps with, the profound betrayal of it is not experienced as some quiet, somber sadness. It is experienced like bees swarming out of a hive that has been broken, as a howling chaos. So we quiet it with marijuana, alcohol, heroin, and even shotguns.

My heart aches for this young man, the wife and friends he left behind, and for all of us.  It is going to be another long remainder of the war and post-war trauma for this country.

Posted by Lynn Allen on January 23, 2006 at 11:57 PM in National and International Politics | Permalink

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Comments

Thank you Lynne for posting a sensitive and comprehensive report on the death of Spc Doug Barber, one of the courageous young Iraq Veterans Against the War speaking out ... when will America truly 'listen'. I know I should have posted a memorial to Doug in my own blog and I'm grateful you took the time to honor him. As this war drags on into 3rd year, my heart grows heavier and heavier with each day. Each day is another day to mark the deaths of our young, and for survivors who don't die in Iraq, the journey of recuperation is long and arduous. Notice I did not use the word recovery ... for a reason ... as young Spc Doug Barber's death is a testimony for thousands of others.

You started your post with 'so it begins' and I would add that it had already begun within the first year of the war and Spc Barber sadly joins the ranks of soldiers who suicide upon returning home; who cannot reconcile the truth they experienced with the illusion of truth when they return home; who fight the fight at home of navigating through unrelenting insensitive beauracratic systems that say No over and over again before they will ever say yes.

My soul and gut twists at how deliberately oblivious our country chooses to be from the absoluteness of the lessons of Vietnam. Waving flags; deferring to political climate of the moment; magnets; and that highly charged buzz word 'patriotism' are not what will prolong the life of loved ones who for a myriad of reasons find themselves hostaged to the ongoing war in Iraq. I've met and spent time with some of the young Iraq veterans of Iraq Veterans Against the War; they are astonishing, courageous young people. For young Doug Barber in the tradition of military Taps Day is Done....

Posted by: Lietta Ruger | Jan 24, 2006 9:30:48 AM

Douglas isn't the first and won't be the last.
Soldiers are hanging themselves with their bed sheets at Walter Reed to escape their personal horrors and sadness. The VA does little for the veterans and couldn't do much more with the funding they have. We are murdering the veterans out of neglect.

the heretic
www.ftssoldier.blogspot.com

Posted by: the heretic | Jan 24, 2006 3:07:28 PM

Funeral Arrangements in Cincinnati, Ohio, January 28, for Douglas Barber

BARBER . Douglas A., age 35, loving son of Martha Moore and the late Douglas L. Barber, dear brother of Connie Bingham, Rhonda Werner and the late Anthony Curtis Prince, also survived by four nieces and one nephew, former husband of Robin Barber, grandson of the late Hobby and Betty Brown, Fred and Helen Barber. Suddenly January 16, 2006 in Alabama. Served with the Ohio National Guard in Iraq from April through December 2003. Family will receive friends at the Arlington Memorial Gardens Mausoleum Chapel Saturday from 1 P.M. until time of memorial service with military honors at 2:30 P.M. Vielhauer-Clepper Funeral Home serving the family locally.

Posted by: sylvia smith | Jan 27, 2006 10:58:57 AM

My husband, a member of Veterans for Peace and I attended Douglas Barber's funeral on Saturday in Cincinnati, Ohio. A truly sad occasion. Several other peace veterans were there to show their respect. The flag ceremony, presence of the National Guard, and playing taps gave us an eerie reminder that but for a string of bad decisions by the VA, the Pentagon and the Bush Administration, this man would be here today. We assured his grieving family that he would be remembered as a hero, and that grateful veterans would forever hold him in their hearts with appreciation for his bravery and strong voice on their behalf. God bless and protect all veterans living with PTSD and other service-related disabilities.

Posted by: sylvia smith | Jan 30, 2006 6:53:30 AM

My son Douglas A. Barber was my life. I want to Thank all those people whom have been a part of my son's life these last several months or so. I've read articles from various different people that have talked down on him and they know who they are.
This is a very sad time for me and my family and we want to say Thank you all for your thoughts, prayers, and remember the good he did by serving his country with Honor and Pride. Those who attended the service Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I love and miss my son dearly and the way he died will always be in my mind. My heart is broken yet I know that he is with God, his Dad, brother, and his grandparents.
Thank you

Martha Moore (Doug's Mom)

Posted by: Martha Moore | Feb 1, 2006 7:55:50 PM

Mrs. Moore,

I grieved when I read about your son and then wrote about him. He sounds like a lovely young man who did his very best under horrible circumstances and was let down by a government that could not see that he just needed some help to find his center again after what he had been through. My heart is with you. Lynn

Posted by: Lynn | Feb 1, 2006 8:13:33 PM

Lietta,

It's like we don't have a shared understanding of history from that time. We haven't kept the awareness of the horror of that Vietnam time and the pain that stayed with so many afterwards. It's a terrible thing to repeat.

Posted by: Lynn | Feb 1, 2006 8:15:38 PM

We also lost our Iraqi War Vet to PTSD...he took his life in Dec. 05...his "story" is here:

http://joshua-omvig.memory-of.com/

We MUST FORCE the government to give these kids the MEDICAL HELP THEY WERE PROMISED!

Posted by: Julie Westly | Jul 11, 2006 5:37:47 AM

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