As troop commanders coming up through the Army ranks, we learned that taking care of our soldiers was a primary responsibility of military leadership. We knew that the troops were our credentials, and we tried to create an environment where they could be the best they could possibly be. This meant getting to know them and their families — whether they lived on or off post. This was part of our responsibility for those under our command. It was — and still is — Leadership 101.
When we lost a service member, for whatever reason, it was a heart-wrenching experience. But it was worse in the case of those who took their own lives. Suicides have been a challenge for the U.S. military for a long time — and the problem is getting more severe. Suicides began rising in the middle of the 2000s, leveled off briefly in 2010 and 2011 and resumed climbing again this year, reaching a record high.