SAN ANTONIO -- The military is fighting a war to combat suicides. Nationally, the numbers are staggering. News 4 WOAI has uncovered suicide information from San Antonio military installations. There were 5 suicides out of Lackland Air Force Base last year alone. Suicides at Fort Sam Houston have also risen within the last several years, compared with the first part of the decade.
We spoke with a combat soldier about his own suicidal thoughts when he returned from war in Iraq.
"As a soldier, we have a creed: 'I will never accept defeat,'" explaned Joshua McCoy. But defeated is exactly how he felt, when he came back from war physically injured, and emotionally traumatized. Almost overnight, he went from being self sufficient, to having to move back in with his parents at the age of 32.
"That's extremely humiliating," explained McCoy.
Chronic pain and anxiety required heavy prescription narcotics. The stress tore apart his marriage and almost cost him custody of his young daughter. In fact, things got so bad, McCoy even contemplated suicide.
"I felt that I was hurting my family," said McCoy. "And it was like, would they be better off without me?"
Nationally, the number of potential suicides among active duty soldiers jumped from 16 in April to 21 in May.
Here in San Antonio, there were 5 suicides out of Lackland Air Force Base last year alone. Previous years over the decade had an average of 2.
"In 2010, we had five suicides," said Brent Boller with Joint Base San Antonio. "And we see that as an anomaly. But that doesn't minimalize or marginalize any suicide. One suicide is too many."
Boller says base officials, however, do not believe the suicide uptick reflects a bigger problem.
"There is no indication that the suicides that we had at Lackland Air Force base are in any way related to a deployment, although we do know that deployments do exacerbate problems that already exist," said Boller. "The financial issues, the relationship problems, the substance abuse issues."
Margaret Ruiz, the owner of a military gift shop near the base says she sees those issues day in and day out.
"Seeing some of these young men who come in here, they look like they're carrying the world on their shoulders," said Ruiz.
And she wants to see the military take a more proactive role in suicide prevention.
"They're just not helping these young kids," said Ruiz. "When they get to that point, give them counseling. Talk to them."
Joint base officials say there are many programs available to help service members and families who may be at risk of suicide.Here are a list of links:Suicide Prevention LifelineArmy Suicide Prevention ProgramsAmerican Foundation for Suicide PreventionSuicide Prevention Resource Center