The U.S. military lost more service members to suicide than combat last year as the number of troops who took their lives rose to a record high.
The 349 active-duty suicides in 2012 underscored the toll a decade of wars has taken on the all-volunteer force and the extent to which the Pentagon continues to grapple with an issue senior leaders have called an epidemic. Comparatively, 229 troops were killed in combat in Afghanistan last year, according to a Washington Post tally.
The Pentagon has been tracking active-duty suicides since 2001. The military began expressing acute concern when deaths began rising in 2006, and it has rolled out numerous initiatives to encourage service members battling depression or post-traumatic stress to seek help.
The number of suicides had peaked at 310 in 2009 but hit a new record last year, according to end-of-year figures military officials provided Monday. Military officials said the numbers might be slightly revised when 2012 deaths are fully investigated later this year.