By: Greg Mitchell
?I?m not going back to Iraq,? Army Sgt. Benjamin Miller, 24 told friends back home in Minnesota. And, indeed, he is not. Three days ago, he was buried, having committed suicide while home on leave. He had been scheduled to get out of the service in January but was ?stop-lossed.?
For several years, E&P has covered (sometimes alone among the media) the suicides of U.S. military personnel in Iraq or when they returned home. In most cases, the news only emerges because a local reporter gets on the case. It happened again this week, with the reporter this time Elizabeth Mohr of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
“It just came out of left field,” Miller’s sister, Kate Nalipinski, told Mohr. “Ben was so happy-go-lucky that something like this was so out of character for him.”
Mohr observed, ?Family members say he seemed frustrated and detached. He spoke of cleaning up the carnage of suicide bombings and the unmistakable smell of death.”
Miller had enlisted in 2005 and served a 12-month tour in Iraq. The miltiary sent him there again in 2007. And kept him there for 2008, after a stop-loss ruling. By March, Miller’s personality began to change. “It started to weigh on his mind that he wasn’t supposed to be there,” Nalipinski said.
Later he came home for an 18-day leave. An excerpt from the Mohr article follows.
“He had lost about 30 or 35 pounds,” Jerry Miller said. “He didn’t look the same. He couldn’t eat. He said, ‘It’s just so hard out there, Dad. It smells like death.’ ”
On June 18, Ben Miller went to a baseball game with friends. Later that night, “he just snapped,” said his girlfriend, Megan Henk.
Miller got a taxi and headed to Nalipinski’s home in Roseville, where he was staying. He had a gun hidden in the house. Miller’s younger brother called Nalipinski to warn her something was wrong.
When Miller arrived, he was hysterical, Nalipinski said. He wouldn’t look at her or speak to her.
He grabbed a bullet from his room and ran out of the house.
Nalipinski called the police, but officers arrived too late….Nalipinski said her brother might have been too proud to ask for help or tell anyone what he was going through.
“I think he was afraid because he wouldn’t want his soldiers to know that he was losing it. Because if he was losing it, how should they feel?” Nalipinski said.
Greg Mitchell’s new book includes several chapters on soldier suicides. It is So Wrong for So Long: How the Press, the Pundits — and the President — Failed on Iraq.