‘Star Tribune’ Chronicles Suicide of Iraq Vet

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By: E&P Staff

The Minneapolis Star Tribune chronicles the recent suicide of a trouble veteran of the Iraq war in a disturbing article by Kevin Giles.

It raises questions about why the warnings were apparently not taken completely seriously by the local V.A. Hospital.

The entire article can be found at the paper’s Web site, at www.startribune. com. Here is how it opens.
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At first, Jonathan Schulze tried to live with the nightmares and the grief he brought home from Iraq. He was a tough kid from central Minnesota, and more than that, a U.S. Marine to the core.

Yet his moods when he returned home told another story. He sobbed on his parents’ couch as he told them how fellow Marines had died, and how he, a machine gunner, had killed the enemy. In his sleep, he screamed the names of dead comrades. He had visited a psychiatrist at the VA hospital in Minneapolis.

Two weeks ago, Schulze went to the VA hospital in St. Cloud. He told a staff member he was thinking of killing himself, and asked to be admitted to the mental health unit, said his father and stepmother, who accompanied him. They said he was told he couldn’t be admitted that day. The next day, as he spoke to a counselor in St. Cloud by phone, he was told he was No. 26 on the waiting list, his parents said.

Four days later, Schulze, 25, committed suicide in his New Prague home.

Citing privacy laws, Veterans Affairs officials wouldn’t comment specifically on the case, nor would they confirm or deny the Schulze family’s account. However, Dr. Sherrie Herendeen, line director for mental health services at the St. Cloud hospital, said Thursday that under VA policy, a veteran talking about suicide would immediately be escorted into the hospital’s locked mental health unit for treatment.

She also said that after hearing of Schulze’s death, the hospital is doing an internal review of its procedures.

Schulze’s father and stepmother, Jim and Marianne Schulze of rural Stewart, Minn., say their son would be alive today if the VA had acted on his pleas for admittance. They say they heard him tell VA staff in St. Cloud that he felt suicidal — in person on Jan. 11 at the hospital, and over the phone on Jan. 12.

On the evening of Jan. 16, Schulze called family and friends to tell them that he was preparing to kill himself. They called New Prague police, who smashed in the door and found him hanging from an electrical cord. Police attempted to resuscitate him, but it was too late.

Schulze’s family doctor in Stewart, a farming crossroads in McLeod County, said he was convinced that Schulze suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, a disabling mental condition that can result from military combat.

“Jonathan was a classic,” said Dr. William Phillips, who said he first examined Schulze in October 2004 when Schulze was home on leave from Marine duty.

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