A truly shocking report on the epidemic of suicides in the US appears in today's Guardian. Whilst I don't think our own experience mirrors the US experience, we can't pretend that we too will not have a problem.
It was when I offered to pour my dad a drink as my mother quietly shook her head behind him that I learned how my parents managed the effects of his 25 years army service. Around remembrance day, alcohol made my dad cry, something he himself found shameful. So we quietly excluded him from booze. The collection of photos in an old shirt box gave a clue - pictures of CWGC standard headstones all bearing his regimental badge, taken during a re-visit to the Normandy battlefields he had fought through, taken sometime between coming home from Palestine and leaving again for Korea. In France, Germany, Palestine and Korea he left behind dead comrades, and with each one came the guilt, I realised much later, of having survived.
The recent number of suicides of British soldiers post-combat, 179 in 10 years, is shocking but not surprising. The same must have happened post-1918 and post-1945; this is nothing new, nor are our soldiers today any more lacking in 'moral fibre' than they were in the past. No. In the past there must have been a massive collective resolution to bury the fact, understandably. The non-physical scars of war don't heal. When we send young men into combat they may lose their lives or their lives may be blighted. That's the tragedy of war - no-one really wins.